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    Podcast: Depression Management Hints and Tips

    Can a never-depressed person truly understand what your depression is like? Or give you advice? Probably not. It’s like getting parenting advice from a non-parent. In today’s show, our two depressed co-hosts, Gabe and Lisa, understand the pain of depression and are here to share their experiences and offer some helpful tips. If you’re struggling with depression, tune in for a great discussion — from two people who have been there and understand what you’re going through. By the end, you’ll know you’re not alone. (Transcript Available Below) Please Subscribe to Our Show: And We Love Written Reviews! About The Not Crazy podcast Hosts Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Lisa is the producer of the Psych Central podcast, Not Crazy. She is the recipient of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Above and Beyond” award, has worked extensively with the Ohio Peer Supporter Certification program, and is a workplace suicide prevention trainer. Lisa has battled depression her entire life and has worked alongside Gabe in mental health advocacy for over a decade. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband; enjoys international travel; and orders 12 pairs of shoes online, picks the best one, and sends the other 11 back. Computer Generated Transcript for “Depression Tips” Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts. Gabe: Hey, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Not Crazy podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and I am your host. But with me, as always, is the great Lisa Kiner. Lisa: Oh, thank you, Gabe. And today’s quote comes to us from Atticus, Depression is being colorblind and constantly told how colorful the world is. Gabe: This speaks to me in ways that I just cannot explain, Lisa: I know it’s awesome, right? Gabe: Right? Lisa: I like it a lot. Gabe: I think that people think that they understand depression in the same way that people think they understand colorblindness. Right? Depression is the absence of happiness. Colorblindness is the absence of color. But. Lisa: Colorblindness actually doesn’t work that way. Gabe: Well, but you see what I mean? Lisa: Right, right, right, the analogy is even better than we thought. Oh, boom. Mind blown. Gabe: Exactly, the average person is like, oh, you see the world in black and white, but that’s not what’s actually happening. Just like depression is not this absence of happiness. It’s a painful feeling. It’s a weighted feeling. It’s being pulled into a dark hole. It’s loneliness, it’s emptiness. It’s shallow, it’s awful. It’s, it feels differently from person to person to person, just like colorblindness appears differently person to person to person and but everybody is wandering around like, well, I know what color blindness is. It’s like the whole world was a black and white TV. There. I got it. Solved the problem. Lisa: You are stunningly good at analogies. Gabe: I know, it’s like it’s my job. This leaves the person who is colorblind to think, wow, you don’t get me at all. But what’s worse is you are positive that you do and you won’t listen to me to explain that you don’t get it. I think that’s how people with depression feel. Not only do they not understand you, they’re 100% positive, that they do understand you and unwilling to listen to anything that we have to say to convince them otherwise, which, of course, just deepens that hole. It deepens that loneliness and frustration and, well, frankly, desperation. Lisa: Yeah, it makes it even sadder. Gabe: Today we’re going to talk about coping with depression and maybe some helpful hints, because frankly, I just I think that we can only get tips for dealing with depression from other people who have dealt with and manage depression. So congratulations, everybody, your depressed co-hosts of Not Crazy are here to save the day. Right, Lisa? Lisa: Absolutely. Gabe: Wow, just the most depressing. Lisa: I know Gabe: Absolutely ever, Lisa: Sorry. Well, because I have some Gabe: I just, your energy level is garbage. Lisa: Ok, stop, I want to say something. I want to respond to a point that you made earlier and I’ll figure out how to work it in. You know, I had a friend once who said. Gabe: You know, you don’t have to work it in, you can just you’re always thinking about how do I make a sound better? I think the audience knows that we’re dipshits by now. I don’t I don’t think we’re fooling anybody with our creative edits. They Lisa: You’re not helping Gabe: They know we suck. Make your point. Lisa: You’re not helping me get in the correct zone for point making. Gabe: You don’t need to be in a zone. The point is the point is the point. Your feelings Lisa: Ok, so Gabe: Are irrelevant to facts. Lisa: One time I said to someone, I feel like people who do not have mental illness, cannot understand mental illness, and I was specifically talking about doctors, I feel like my doctor who does not have mental illness does not get it. And she said, well, but isn’t that the truth with everyone? I mean, what if you had diabetes? Would a person who didn’t have diabetes understand it? And. Well, on the one hand, I don’t have diabetes, but yeah, I feel like they would. I feel like it’s not the same. And I don’t know why. I feel like mental illness is different than other things. I feel like I do have an understanding of all these other diseases, diabetes, a broken leg that I do not have. But I feel like I do understand it. But is that me doing the same thing that other people do with mental illness? I don’t know. Gabe: There’s an element of this, right, we’re all arrogant about things Lisa: Right, Gabe: That impact other people. Lisa: That’s the word I’m looking for, arrogance, is this just my own arrogance? I don’t know. Gabe: Somewhat, right? I think it’s all in how much we scratch below the surface, right? Think of like parenting, you know, how everybody who has no children is the perfect Lisa: Right, my kids would be perfect. Gabe: I’m going to pick on my sister because my sister, before she had kids, she just walked around judging everybody’s parents. My kid’ll never throw a temper tantrum in a parking lot. My kid’ll never do this. My kid will never eat that. My kid will never watch this. My kid won’t have that problem. My kid will never back talk me. Yeah. I love my niece. And what I love most about her is that she just proves my sister wrong every single day. Lisa: That does sound enjoyable. Gabe: Yeah, it’s awesome as her big brother, but I don’t have kids, so it’s fun to watch, but it’s not that my sister’s a bad person. She thought that she understood. She observed other parents. She thought about her own upbringing and she formulated these opinions. But when parents were telling her, look, lady, that’s not how it works. My sister was like, pretty sure that’s how it works. And yeah, she’s just done nothing but eat crow since little Eva was born. The difference is, is to my sister’s credit and to many people’s credit, they’re like, yeah, I was wrong. I was completely unprepared for this. I was completely wrong. I am just so wrong. And I think we get that in like other illnesses, like you said, a broken leg. I think that many of us have broken a leg or at least respect the thoughts, views and opinions of somebody who we know who has broken a leg. But when it comes to depression, when it comes to any mental illness, really, but the show’s about depression. People are like, look, you’re describing it incorrectly. And they’re like, no depression of mine will ever behave that way. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: And they just walk away with all of the arrogance of a 20-year-old with no kids judging people who have kids because they’re positive that their child raising skills are superior even though they have no children. I think this allows us not to move forward in educating the public because they think they already know it. Lisa: And this leads to your point of the best place to get advice on how to deal with depression is from people who have depression. Gabe: Yes, and I don’t want everybody to, like, cancel all of their appointments with their therapists and doctors, right. As somebody who lives with depression, as somebody who manages depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, the first advice that I’m going to give you is work with your therapist and your doctor. Lisa: For your long, long term management, yeah, you need a therapist, you need a doctor, take your meds, do your therapy, we just want to talk a little bit, maybe more around the edges for when you’re having a bad day or things just aren’t quite where you want them to be. This is not about when you’re really bad, when you’re really sick, you’re really deep in the hole. Gabe: We also want to give you a few points, maybe, you know, your mileage may vary about how to talk to your therapist, talk to your doctor, talk to your prescriber, because so often, if they are dismissive, we sort of get handcuffed because we have this idea that perhaps we can’t argue with them. Lisa: Well, yeah, because it’s your fault, it’s on you, Gabe: Well, yeah, it’s on you. Lisa: It’s your mistake, not theirs. Gabe: Yeah, it’s nobody’s mistake, it’s an illness process, I hate this whole oh, my God, the patient is sick. Is it the patient’s fault or the doctor’s fault? It’s depression’s fault. It’s the illness’s fault. Why? Why are we blaming patient or doctor? You know, there’s a third party in the room, dumb asses. It’s the illness’s fault. Lisa: Well, people with mental illness are in a bad position because by definition, your brain is not working correctly or not working optimally. So when your doctor says something and it’s putting it on you, you’re like, well, that makes sense. I’m the problem here, clearly. You’re kind of stuck. Gabe: You’re kind of stuck, but I want people to understand that there are things that they can do to advocate for themselves, and the first thing is, is to tell your doctor, I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that this is my fault and I don’t accept that I am stuck. I want real goals. I want you to tell me what I need to do so that I can mark them down. And if I do those things and I’m not better, then we know it’s not me. In the deepest, darkest depression, and I know that’s hard, keep a lot of notes, find an ally, find a Lisa, find a friend, find somebody to help keep track of this. Don’t talk about depression in this abstract way. I’m depressed. What did you do? I went to a doctor. What’s the goal? To be not depressed. We need hard goals. You know, I’m depressed. What’s the goal? To get dressed in the morning? OK, I want to work with my therapist on how to get dressed in the morning. That’s a real manageable goal. And I’m going to give you a hint. Lisa: Ok, you have a hint? Gabe: I feel that we’ve beat to death this idea that you should work with your doctor, right, Lisa? Like nobody is saying that the Not Crazy podcast is a replacement for medical advice. Agreed? Lisa: Agree, Gabe: Ok, good. Lisa: Strongly agree. Gabe: All right. Let’s start at the beginning of the day. One of the problems that I often have is I just I can’t get out of bed in the morning. Now, I don’t like mean literally can’t. I’m not, like, laying in bed paralyzed or. I just wake up and I look around and I think I don’t want to do this. I don’t. And you remember these depressive episodes, Lisa. It was. Lisa: It was difficult, it was very difficult, but I bet that you have some tips for dealing with that. Gabe: The first thing I want to say is I think this is where severe depression sort of starts, right? This I don’t want to get out of bed or I don’t want to leave my couch or I don’t want to leave my house. Just this. Lisa: It’s an overwhelming apathy. Gabe: Yes, yes, and it’s this like you want to cocoon. Lisa: Yeah, in a big gray blanket. Gabe: Yeah, I don’t know what color my blanket was, but Lisa: Well, no, because it’s gray, because it’s depression. Gabe: Oh, I get it. Lisa: Yeah, a big gray, wet blanket. Gabe: Oh, I don’t know what made it wet, but, Lisa: Tears, Gabe: Yeah, Lisa: Though, not really. Gabe: I don’t think you’re far off, but I have some general tips for this. You know, one of the first things is, as you know, I thought to myself, OK, well, I need to get out of bed. Right. So, Lisa: Step one. Gabe: Yeah, step one, get out of bed. But that’s like really easy to say, right? It’s like, well, I’m depressed. What do I do? You just cheer up. Well, that’s not very helpful. How do you get out of bed? And I think there are some hints and tips to help with even that most basic idea of getting out of bed, put an alarm clock across the room. This has helped me because I have to physically get on my feet to turn off the alarm clock. And the alarm clock is so annoying that it overrides this general desire to stay in bed. Lisa: That is the only way I can get up is if I put the alarm clock on the other side of the room because otherwise, I just turn over and hit it off. But it really annoys my husband Gabe: Well, and. Lisa: Because it goes off so much longer than it would otherwise. Gabe: If you don’t live alone, you can ask a roommate to turn on a light for you. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Or open your window or, you know, do something like that. That’s what you would do, Lisa. You would come in and open the windows, turn on the light, open the door. But once you’re actually physically on your feet, like, that’s the least of your problems, right? You’re standing up. I mean, chances are having to go to the bathroom will get you out of bed. That part kind of works itself out eventually. So the big indicator for me was personal hygiene. Was showering, you know, am I taking a shower? Am I shaving? Am I brushing my teeth? And. Lisa: For unknown reasons, that was something that you fixated on, it just seemed really overwhelming to you. Strangely, you would do other things, but that particular thing just you couldn’t seem to get past. Gabe: It was so hard. So one of the goals that I made was to get dressed to get like real dressed like. Lisa: Yeah, not pajamas and robe dressed. Gabe: Right, like out in the world and here, here’s the helpful hint, guys, Lisa: Oh, yeah. Gabe: So many people say, well, my goal today is to get dressed OK, but that’s actually like a bunch of little things, right? Get dressed is the conclusion. There’s actually quite a few steps, right? There’s getting out of bed. There’s shaving, there’s taking a shower, there’s brushing your teeth, there’s washing your hair. There’s putting on clean underwear, clean socks and picking out clothes is even on there. And one of the ways that I helped myself a real great deal was I listed all of those things one at a time in order. Step one, get out of bed, step two, shave, step three, get in shower, step four, shampoo. And you’re thinking, wow, that’s like really cumbersome. But the one it is. But who cares? We’re moving forward. But it let me cross a lot of little things off the list. Now, you remember Lisa. Lisa: He would literally cross them off the list. Gabe: And I wrote them on the mirror in my bathroom because most bathroom mirrors, if you buy a dry erase marker, you can just write it right on there. Actually, I was wrong, pick out clothes was the first thing I put on the list. And I could usually cross that one off before I went to bed. Lisa: Getting a jump start on the day. Gabe: Yeah, yeah, I’m going to bed with a win. We tend to do this like people say, I want to graduate college, OK, that’s a good goal. But could you imagine if you showed up to college on your first day and you asked the admissions people are like, hey, what do I need to do? And they said, you need to graduate college. OK, but how? By going to college. Graduating college is the conclusion. Getting dressed, getting ready, facing the day. That’s the conclusion. Write it out. Give yourself credit along the way. Lisa: You did have like a five-point list that you wrote on the mirror almost every day. Gabe: Yeah. Lisa: And it was like shower, shave, brush teeth. And you went straight down the list with the marker and crossed it off as you went. It seemed to make you very happy. Gabe: I don’t know, there was something cathartic almost about accomplishing things, and you’re thinking to yourself, if you’re like me anyway, well, those are so stupid, those are stupid accomplishments. And if you’ve never been in the midst of really serious depression, I can understand that knee jerk reaction that that writing, you know, shave and then crossing it off is stupid. Lisa: It worked, though. Gabe: I’m telling you, the day before, I did nothing. Nothing. So, when all I did in a day was brush my teeth, comb my hair, shave, put on clean underwear, get dressed, that was an amazing accomplishment. And then I started building on the list, go get the mail, drive and get a Diet Coke or a cup of coffee. It just built until one day I realized that I was just doing this stuff automatically in the quote unquote normal amount of time and. Lisa: You didn’t need the list anymore. Gabe: I didn’t need the list anymore, and I would usually just realize, oh, huh, I didn’t write the list, life would just sort of move on. And we think to ourselves, well, why should I give myself credit for brushing my teeth? Because it’s hard. It’s hard for people like us. It’s an accomplishment for people like us. Don’t shame your success. Celebrate it. Well, other people don’t need to do this. First off, you don’t know what’s written on other people’s mirrors. All right? You just don’t. That’s number one thing. And number two, who cares? They’re not living your life. You’re living your life. This puts you in the best position. Lisa: You still do it occasionally, Gabe: Occasionally I do, Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: It’s still a coping skill that I use, you know, another coping skill that I use, Lisa, that that you taught me Lisa: Oh, Gabe: That. Yeah. Lisa: I’m sure this is a good one. Gabe: This is a super important, are you ready? Lisa: Ok, I’m ready. Gabe: Sleep hygiene. Lisa: We all know how much Gabe loves to talk about sleep hygiene. Gabe: Anybody that’s been a long-time listener of Gabe Howard knows how much I love sleep hygiene; I cannot overstate that I believe that sleep drives my mental health, my bipolar, anxiety, mania, depression more than anything else. It’s also an incredible predictor. But this all starts with respecting sleep and knowing how to manage it. And normally I give this whole big speech about everything that I know about sleep hygiene, but I learned it from Lisa. So, real treat everybody. Lisa is going to teach us sleep hygiene. Lisa: Ok, sleep hygiene means having a consistent routine and a consistent waking up and going to bed time, that can be so difficult when you’re depressed. Like Gabe says, nobody respects sleep. You should use your bed only for sleep and sex. That’s it. Don’t have your TV in the bedroom. Don’t be playing with your phone before you go to sleep. None of that. Sleep and sex, that’s it. Gabe: It’s so simple, it’s almost annoying, right? First off, sleep is just as important as food. Just hear me on that one. It is just as important as food. If you eat garbage all day, you will feel like shit. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will feel like shit. Those things go together. Lisa: Well, but when people talk about health, they always talk about diet and exercise, but no one ever throws in sleep. Diet, exercise and sleep, they should have equal footing. Gabe: They really, really, really should, but for some reason they don’t, so I am going to fix that. Like that’s my mission. A lot of people hear where are you supposed to go to bed and get up at the same time? And they’re like, well, but with depression, I can’t control when I fall asleep. And what if I stay up all night ruminating or, you know, anxiety follows my depression around pretty easily where I just get caught in this feedback loop and I stay up later and later and later. Yeah, it’s really rough when that same time in the morning comes around and I’ve only gotten two hours sleep and people say to me, well but sleep is so important, Gabe, then you should just sleep all day, otherwise you’re going to have a really bad day. You’re going to be irritable, you’re going to be grumpy, you’re not going to get that sleep. Yeah, all of those things are true except for the part where you don’t get up anyway and you’re thinking to yourself, why would I do that to myself for a day? Because otherwise you’re going to do that to yourself for two days a week, four days. You’re going to get your routine all messed up. You’re going to get your sleep cycle off. One bad day is awful. So, imagine seven bad days. I once got my sleep schedule, so out of whack, I don’t think I knew up from down for a month and that all could have been avoided by having one bad day. Now, Lisa, the only use your bedroom for sleep and sex thing really throws a lot of people because a lot of people use their bedrooms as a sanctuary away Lisa: Right, Gabe: From children, Lisa: Roommates. Gabe: Roommates. It would be nice if everybody listening had multiple rooms in their house and they could just dedicate a room. But there are still things that you can do in your bedroom to make sure that your bed is only used for sleep and sex. One thing is to have a chair in your room if you can. So if you are going to have a TV in there, don’t watch TV in bed, sit in the chair next to your bed and watch the TV. That way, when you’re in the bed, it still creates this demarcation. Lisa: Well, it even if you can’t do that for some reason, you have a really small apartment, have a consistent bedtime routine, that these are the things I do before I go to sleep. You brush your teeth, put on your jammies, whatever, sit in that chair and read for 20 minutes. You have a consistent routine that you do every night, no matter what. I personally sometimes do not give enough credit to sleep. When I get really depressed, you just start ruminating on those thoughts. And for me, I think staying up late is actually a form of procrastination. You know how you always tell little kids the sooner you go to bed, the sooner Santa will be here? Well, yeah, the sooner you go to bed, the sooner tomorrow will be here. And all the things that you have to do tomorrow will be here. So if you stay up, you can put that off. Yeah, it always is self-defeating. Gabe: Well, it’s self-sabotage, especially for you, Lisa. Lisa: Yeah, I get so much more emotional when I haven’t slept, I’m just on the knife’s edge and I can’t restore my equilibrium if I’m tired. Gabe: When we talk about managing depression, it would just be ludicrous to not just point out how important sleep is to managing mental health. Lisa: And no one ever talks about it. Your doctor will ask you about your diet or your exercise, they never ask you about your sleep. It’s weird. Gabe: But thankfully, Gabe and Lisa are on the case, honestly, you would be crazy not to get enough sleep. Lisa: And again, it’s one of those things that’s so simplistic. Really? I have this life-threatening illness and you want me to make sure to go to bed on time? Yeah, Gabe: Yes, Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, Gabe: Yeah, Lisa: I do. Yeah, Gabe: Yeah, yeah, I do. Lisa: It’s not bullshit. Seriously, I speak from experience. Gabe: We also need to think outside of the box. I am very fortunate I can use my bedroom just for sleep and sex. I’ve got the whole rest of the house. But when I travel, for example, if the hotel room has a chair, I sit in the chair to watch TV rather than sit on the bed. Now, if I have to sit on the bed, I don’t get under the covers and I stay in my clothes. So Lisa: That’s a good one. Gabe: The idea is to be creative around this so that you are setting up a routine so that when you get into bed, your body knows it’s time to sleep. Another thing that I highly recommend is a white noise machine. Turn on the white noise machine only when you’re ready to go to bed, turn everything else off. A fan is very helpful. Turn on the white noise machine and the fan when you go to bed, that air across your body, being under the covers, being in pajamas or all of these things just indicate this is what you do when you sleep. And then it’s repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat. We can say until we’re blue in the face that Lisa doesn’t respect sleep, but Lisa is not uncommon. Lisa, along with sleep hygiene, what are some other things that you think that people can do to manage their depression in a helpful and meaningful way? Lisa: Well, again, the idea of having a schedule is so important, so you’re getting up at the same time every day, and one of the things that might help you keep to a schedule maybe is a pet. Gabe: Really, you’re advising people to get a living creature. Should we start with a plant? Lisa: Well, maybe you should start with a plant, maybe a hamster, hamsters are really nice. Gabe: Well, you know, that’s very interesting, actually, I’m really glad that you pointed that out. You know, in my mind, dog. Everybody is going to run out and buy a 100-pound German shepherd. But you are right, there’s pocket pets. I said plant and you brought up hamster. Do you think that the I’m really trying hard not to say, hey, do you think depressed people can take care of hamsters? Lisa: Yes, actually, I do, because it gives you something else to focus on, something else to think about, something that isn’t just about you. It’s someone else, something else that is counting on you. And depending on the pet, especially right now, COVID time, if you’re not getting a lot of human interaction, you have your pet. You know, it’s something that provides you with affection and you could get that dog and cuddle with it and pet it and it’s just it’s very soothing. Gabe: Lisa, you had a hamster. Lisa: I did have a hamster as a child. I loved my hamster a lot. Gabe: I was hoping that you would just open yourself up and just confess to the people your love of your hamster. What was your hamster’s name? Lisa: Twitchell. Gabe: Twitchell. Tell everybody about little depressed Lisa taking care of little Twitchell. Lisa: I was a troubled kid, I had a lot of trouble with depression, I didn’t have a lot of friends, I was very lonely and I got a hamster. As I think back about it now, it’s actually really depressing. I’m actually feeling a little bit emotional. I’m 40 and I’m getting emotional thinking about the rodent I had that died when I was 10, but I was ridiculously attached to this hamster. Her name was Twitchell because her nose twitched. I thought that was incredibly clever. It just gave me something else to love, you know, because like I said, I was lonely and there was nobody else around. Gabe: And it wasn’t just about loving, it was also about the routine of caring for Twitchell. Lisa: Yeah, because you had to feed her, you had to take care of her cage, and of course, you want to do that at the same time every day and that you felt this responsibility. I have to be at least up and alert enough to do these things or I’m letting her down, you know, so you have this responsibility to someone else and maybe you don’t have the incentive to get up and get going for yourself, but you do for your pet. Gabe: Now, Lisa, you moved on from Twitchell when you were a little older, you got a turtle and now I was fascinated by this because when I met Lisa, she had a turtle and she was like, well, I’ve had that turtle since I was 10. I was like, that’s not true, that turtles don’t live that long. And she was like, turtles live like 50, 60 years. And I was like, well, I’ve only seen the little turtles. And Lisa said. Lisa: You know, I hate that. Oh, when I was a kid, I had the little turtles. Babies? No, no, no, not the babies, the little ones. Babies, those are babies. Everyone’s like, no, no, no. That’s a different breed of turtle that stays small. Yeah, it’s a baby. And then they’ll say things like, no, no, no. I had that turtle for like a year and it never got any bigger. Yeah, because you weren’t taking good care of it. It was a baby. Gabe: It’s extraordinarily important that any pet that you get, you make sure that you can care for the pet. Lisa: Yes. Gabe: And that you have a backup plan in the event that you cannot. Now don’t run out and grab a pet thinking the pet is going to solve all of your problems, make sure that you are ready for the pet and that you have a backup plan. Backup plans are very important when caring for living creatures. I cannot stress enough that you might want to start with a plant. This is not advice for the severely depressed. This is an advanced skill. We wanted to mention pets because the research is just clearly there, but we don’t want everybody running out getting a pet that they, you know, slowly torture and kill. I think that’s what we’re trying to say, Lisa. Lisa: Well, keep in mind, even among pocket pets, they could be a lot more difficult to take care of, especially reptiles and birds, people do not realize the amount of work and effort that’s involved in properly caring for them. And obviously, you don’t want to get a pet so that you can take poor care of it. So this is a bit of advanced skill. Make sure you do your research. I owned reptiles for decades and they just take a lot more work than most people think. Gabe: As somebody who suffers from depression, I got to tell you, my dog, I love my dog. My dog absolutely helps with my depression. It helps with my routine. I’ve got to care for this dog. I feel a sense of pride in watching him, caring for him, molding him, taking him to the vet. Lisa: And responsibility. Gabe: Yeah, I cannot be more clear that Peppy is a point of pride and success for me, but that said, I want to make sure that I do right by him even when I’m sick. It’s of vital importance to understand that. So we have sort of a happy medium, which is volunteer at the Humane Society, find a shelter. Lisa: Then you could pet things. Gabe: Then you can play with the pets, care for the pets, be around the pets, but also then you can go home. Lisa, you have, I don’t remember, did you ever volunteer for any sort of animal shelter? Lisa: Yeah, because I didn’t want to have a dog in my house and I couldn’t afford it, but I wanted to be able to pet them. Gabe: I remember that I fostered a kitten for a few weeks. Do you remember because when I fostered Lisa: I do remember. Gabe: That kitten, you were like Gabe got a kitten. I was like, I’m just a foster. Six weeks, and then the kitten was adopted. But that was a really good experience because, one, it was temporary. And two, I had the agency checking in on me. So fostering was actually a great step for me. And I got to play with the kitten. Lisa: And also, I’m sure if your neighbor or someone you know has a dog, they’ll let you walk it. Dogs can walk for days. If you say, hey, can I take your dog for a walk? They will totally let you do it because, yeah, no one can walk a dog as much as the dog wishes to be walked. Gabe: You know, I just thought of a service that Kendall and I use to take care of Peppy sometimes, I’m not going to mention the name, but it’s just an app. It’s sort of like Uber for people who walk dogs, take care of pets, you know, check in on them. You can play with other people’s dogs, walk other people’s dogs and make a little money. Just Google Uber of dog walkers. They didn’t pay us. And I’m not certainly referring them. I just I wonder, everybody so far that’s taken care of Peppy from that service has had a day job. I wonder how many of those folks are like, hey, I get to play with puppies and make a little extra money. Sort of reminds me of, like, people like I don’t join a gym. I’m a mover on the weekends. Lisa: That is an excellent idea that I might wow, think of all the money you’d save. But pets give you something else to focus on and they’re a source of uncomplicated affection. Gabe: Back in a minute after these messages. Announcer: Interested in learning about psychology and mental health from experts in the field? Give a listen to the Psych Central Podcast, hosted by Gabe Howard. Visit PsychCentral.com/Show or subscribe to The Psych Central Podcast on your favorite podcast player. Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Lisa: We’re back, talking about depression management. Gabe: You know, Lisa, we’ve been kind of doing a combo deal here where we tell you how you can play with pets and volunteer, but volunteerism in and of itself is a way to help avoid, alleviate and lift yourself up out of depression. Lisa: Studies are very clear that volunteerism works, it gives you that something to regularize your schedule, it gives you a place to go, it gives you responsibility, and it gives you that social interaction. Gabe: It also gives you success, right? I just I used to be a volunteer manager and I called it the warm and fuzzy feeling. You know, everybody said volunteers work for free. No, they don’t. Volunteers do not work for free. They work for that warm and fuzzy feeling. You must connect their efforts with accomplishment, with success. That’s what they want. And I think this is really relevant and important for people who suffer from depression, because a lot of times we feel like we just feel like we’re not doing any good in the world Lisa: Right. Lisa: And volunteering gives you those positive accolades. Gabe: You know, Lisa, we’re very aware of all of the common volunteer activities, you know, volunteering in a soup kitchen or volunteering with animals. But, you know, the mental health community has so many open volunteer opportunities that I don’t think people look into. Now, you want to make sure that your own recovery is very stable and sturdy before you move into them. But I hate it when people who live with mental illness don’t volunteer for our causes because, well frankly, we do have a hard time securing volunteers. Lisa: Yes, it is a difficult thing, stigma is everywhere. And so, in your community, do you have a drop in center? Do you have a clubhouse program? Is there someplace that you could go to help out? Gabe: Also, don’t discount volunteering for a fundraiser. Lisa: Yeah, fundraising is what keeps the lights on. Gabe: My first foray into mental health volunteerism was for a mental health walk. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: My volunteerism was I was a team captain. I put together a team, I raised some money. I showed up on Walk day, and then I grew from there. That was the first year, you remember it was called Gabe’s Group. Lisa: Yeah, we got matching T-shirts. Gabe: Yeah, we’re original at making names. The next year they asked me to do more, right. Not only was I a team captain, but I also gave a speech training other team captains and like getting people excited. And then the year after that, we volunteered to help organize the walk and put up signs. And there’s always stuff that you can do, like look around when you’re at a fundraiser. You know, at the end of it, everybody goes home, ask them if they need help tearing down, you know, all those sponsor signs that you saw along the walk path? Somebody needs to walk that walk path again and take them down. We love volunteers that can help do this. And it makes such a huge difference. I’m sure you can think of a dozen more easy mental health volunteer ideas that you can do no matter what level of recovery you’re in. Lisa: Yes, don’t discount. Just because you can’t do a lot doesn’t mean you can’t do a little. There’s all sorts of things you could do. Get on the list to help stuff envelopes, pass out literature. You know, how you go to the library and there’s a bulletin board and it has a flier for that group? Someone had to go there and put it there. Be the person who does that. There are so many opportunities. Gabe: The most important thing is to get engaged, call up the local nonprofits in an area that’s meaningful to you like mental health and say, look, I don’t know what I can do, but here is my skill set. Here is my available time. Utilize me. Now, remember, it’s not instantaneous right. They’re not going to be like, oh, my God, tomorrow, come in. It’s a slow build. And because you don’t know where they are, especially with COVID and the pandemic. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: There’s a lot less, unfortunately, right now. But keep an ear to the ground, ask if they have an email list and get signed up for it. The point is, is giving back. It matters. It mattered to me. Lisa, I believe it matters to you. Lisa: Of course, and there’s actual evidence to back this up, studies conclusively show that volunteering helps depression. Gabe: One of the advanced volunteer activities, of course, is peer support, leading a support group, teaching classes. There’s a lot of national mental health charities that will train you to be a support group facilitator or coordinator or teach various classes that they offer. Now, I want to be very, very clear. You need to make sure that you are secure in your stability. Lisa: And you’re pretty far along in your own recovery. Gabe: Yeah, but it absolutely helps prevent relapse. It prevents depression, it gives you that, you know, that weekly you know, oomph, that success. Now, Lisa is a trained teacher. She taught classes. They were 12-week classes once a week for 12 weeks. I am a support group facilitator. Every Thursday for a year and a half, I sat in a church basement and facilitated a mental health support group. And we both can just not say enough about that. But we grew from smaller volunteerism. Lisa, why did you sign up to be a teacher? Lisa: The truth? Because I had attended the class and I thought it was great and it helped me so much and I talked to the director of the group and said, oh, my goodness, this class is amazing. You need to have more of them. You need to get more people to take this class. And she looked at me and said, we don’t have more classes because we don’t have enough teachers. And I thought, oh, walked right into that. I’m not going to be able to say no now. And how many years ago was that? And here we are. Gabe: Oh, yeah. Years and years and years, I just want to set the proper expectations of where you are in your recovery, will determine what kind of volunteer opportunities are available for you. When I first started, I liked the open ended. You know, we accept volunteers between noon and five, you know, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’re here, great. If you’re not, you’re not. And then I built into OK, we’re counting on you. We need you here at noon every Wednesday. I build into that. And some volunteer opportunities, they come with training. Lisa, you had to take a, I believe, a forty-hour training class and like a certified peer supporter is, I believe, a 60-hour training class, at least in the state of Ohio. Different states have different things. To become a facilitator for the mental health support group that I led, I actually had to travel to another city, stay in a hotel for three nights and have a pretty intensive training over three days. Lisa: So, these are more of your advanced skills, but to get a start, stuff some envelopes, do some data entry, pick up litter on the walk path. There’s always something. Gabe: And this leads us straight in to stay connected. I know that when I was sick, I just wanted to shut the world out. Lisa: You didn’t have the energy. Gabe: I didn’t want anybody to see me and I didn’t want to see them and staying connected was so valuable, I was very fortunate. I did not cultivate a group. A group cultivated me. They were my mom and dad. They were my siblings who checked in on me. They were friends that even though I did everything I could to get rid of them. Well, Lisa kept coming over. I think that sometimes I could have dipped a lot lower, but people were banging on my door asking me if I was OK and I cannot stress how I just I did so little to deserve that. It’s not like something that I worked on. So my advice to you is if you have people that are banging on your door when you are well, thank them. Thank them so much. Just be like, thank you for checking in on me. When things are great, praise them for caring about you enough to show up at your house unannounced after you’ve ignored their phone call for four days. Lisa, thank you for showing up at my house unannounced. Lisa: You’re welcome. Gabe: After I ignored your phone call for four days. But what are some things that you can do to cultivate that group if you don’t have one, if you’re not as fortunate as I was? Lisa: Well, yeah, long term you’re going to want to cultivate that group and basically just go out there and make friends, and you could do that through volunteering, through joining activities that you enjoy, your family, your workplace. So that’s a long-term plan for long term management. But in those acute moments when you’re really sick, force yourself, even though you don’t want to. Get up and go out with the friend who’s inviting you or answer the door or answer the phone call, you just have to force yourself because that keeps you connected to that group. Gabe: Now, when we say force yourself, obviously, if you need medical attention, get medical attention, but if you’re wavering, I cannot tell you how many times I was like, you know what, I don’t want to. And I. Lisa: Because you feel like it doesn’t have immediate benefit in the moment, and you’ve got enough going on. You’re like, oh, I just can’t deal with that right now. It’s just not worth it. But it is worth it. It will definitely bring you long term benefits and it also brings you short term benefits. So, when you’re waffling, oh, God, do I have the energy for this? I don’t know. I’m just going to stay home. Don’t. It’s a bad idea. Gabe: And this is where cultivation really, really matters, one of the things that I did in my social circle was, again, when we were well. You know, so many, Lisa: When you’re well. Gabe: Yes. Lisa: You got to set this up when you’re well. Gabe: Nobody wants to discuss mental illness and mental health issues and depression when they’re well, they want to pretend that it’s never coming back. Listen, it’s going to come back. Lisa: It’s coming back, yeah. Gabe: So I cannot stress this enough. But Lisa and I, we know when to push each other and we also know when to be honest with each other. So I say to Lisa, hey, let’s go out to dinner and she’ll be like, you know, I just don’t want to leave my house. And I’ll be like, OK. See, the first thing that Lisa did right was tell me the truth. She told me, I just don’t want to leave my house. Lisa: Yeah, don’t try to find an excuse, because then they’re going to find out that your excuse isn’t real, then it’s going to be a whole thing. Gabe: Right, step number two is ask some questions. Hey, Lisa, what’s going on? Is there a reason that you don’t want to leave? Is there anything I can do? Is there something that I can do to make it better? You know, I suggested this really loud, busy restaurant late at night. What if we go more low key? What if we go to the local diner? What if we just go to a fast-food restaurant? What if we just go to a coffee shop and just sit and talk? Would that help? Lisa: Or maybe something super low key? What if I just come over with a pizza? Gabe: The point is, is by setting this up when you’re well, I know that I can trust Lisa to tell her the truth, which is that I just don’t want to leave my house. And Lisa knows that I have given her permission to push a little and say, you know, look, let’s alter the plan. You know, what can we do? If you don’t want to go out on a Friday night because it’s busy, let’s change to breakfast on Saturday, that kind of thing. And it doesn’t always work. You know, Lisa and I have, you know, certainly pissed each other off a lot by pushing, but it works more than you think. But for me, Lisa, trusting me enough to say, hey, look, I’m just too anxious, depressed, moody, whatever to leave my house, that’s like really meaningful when it comes to cultivating relationships because she trusts me with this. This is not the kind of thing that you tell somebody you don’t trust. This is the kind of thing that you tell a real friend. Your friends will pick up on this. But again, I have to stress. Lisa: Gotta, you got to cover your bases when you’re well, Gabe: When you’re well. Lisa: You’re going to need to build up credit, friend credit in the bank, when you’re well because you’re not going to be able to do it when you’re sick. To find that friend that doesn’t mind your bad moods or your dark moods, you’re going to need someone that you’re really coming through for when you’re well. And how well do you know your friends? If they’re saying, oh, no, I can’t do it, I can’t go out, I’m too depressed, how hard can you push? How hard can you insist? No, look, you need to do this. It’s for your own good. Come on, let’s go. And at what point do you need to back off? It’s a difficult skill. Gabe: I really can’t stress enough that part of managing depression is managing your support group, cultivating those friendships and managing the people around you, and this means that you need to have conversations when you’re sick, when you’re not sick, when you’re perfect, when you’re, you know, wavering a little bit. It just needs to be this constant communication. And one of the reasons that is, is because of their own boundaries as well. You know, maybe they’re willing to adjust their plans for you. Hey, Gabe, are you ready to go out this Friday? You know, I just really don’t want to leave my house, OK? Look, I’ve got tickets to my favorite music group or sporting event. And you being melancholy or dragging me down is not something that I’m willing to do with hundred- and fifty-dollar tickets. So you know what? I’ll catch up with you tomorrow. I love you. Thank you for being honest with me and thank you for not dragging down my event. They need to be aware of this as well. And you need to not be offended by that, because I got to tell you, Gabe: I have ruined more than one event for Lisa where she would have preferred that I not tried, that I would have stayed home and she would have caught up with me the next day. That’s why this constant communication needs to happen. It also needs to happen when you screw up. You know, Lisa, one of the things that causes me the most amount of depression is when I know, when I know that my depression has impacted you and not talking to you about it just makes it worse. The important thing to remember here is that you need to have ongoing communication with your support system, with your friends in order to cultivate a real relationship. You need to be talking about this always, not just when you need something, not just when you’re in crisis. It can’t be the elephant in the room. And people wonder when it’s going to wreck the day. You need to weave it into your relationships because it’s just so incredibly vital to who we are as people. We suffer from depression. That’s who we are. Lisa: We all think it’s not going to come back when we’re well and it is. It’s going to come back and you need to be ready for that. Gabe: And when you’re ready for it, it really, really lessens its impact and having these conversations with your friends lets you avoid things like biting off more than you can chew and ruining their event. It allows them to help you. But remember, it’s really important that when you’re well, you repay people and repayment is not give them money or buy them dinner. No, when things are going well, let them pick. If you wrecked somebody’s weekend, make up for it later. Don’t dwell on the fact that you wrecked it. Make a plan to fix it. You know, Lisa, I wrecked a great many. Lisa: Yeah, there was some high points. Gabe: Yeah, yeah, and one of the things that Lisa and I finally learned is, one, I need to be honest when I can’t do it, because that allows Lisa to make other plans of somebody that’s not going to wreck the plans. Right. We can all agree with that. Lisa: Those were expensive tickets, that’s all I’m saying. Gabe: But it also made me, when I was well, find things that Lisa wanted to do, you know, how many times I’ve gone to Red Lobster with Lisa? Lisa: Red Lobster is delicious. Gabe: I hate this place. Like there’s nothing in there that I like, but it’s one of Lisa’s favorite restaurants. It’s probably her favorite chain restaurant, right? Lisa: I can’t help it. Yeah, it probably is my favorite chain restaurant. Gabe: Yeah, I hate this place, it’s awful, it’s awful in every way, but but Lisa: Lobsterfest? Gabe: Yeah. Lisa: I’m so sad for you that you don’t have the joy of Lobsterfest. Gabe: But I go to these things because it’s meaningful to Lisa and Lisa is like, hey, Gabe has no reason to do this. He doesn’t want to. These are the kind of things that build you goodwill. And also an apology goes a long way. So many people are like, why do I have to apologize for my illness? Yeah, it’s not your fault, but. Lisa: It’s your responsibility. Whose fault is it? Gabe: Yeah, it’s not their fault either, right? Lisa, doesn’t it suck to have to apologize for something is not your fault? Lisa: Yeah, something that you can’t control, but, hey, life isn’t fair. Gabe: It really reminds me, you know, Lisa and I have a really good friend who gets migraines and she’s constantly apologizing when the migraines, frankly, interrupt our plans. But, yeah, it’s not our fault we didn’t give her a migraine. Lisa: Right. So what do you do with that? Gabe: Yeah, so she says, I’m sorry, we say we know it’s cool, what can we do to help? But imagine if she went the other way. Look, I have a migraine. It’s not my problem. All right? I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault. Could you imagine the reaction to that? Lisa: No one would tolerate that. Gabe: Yeah, we’ll be like, look, I’m sorry you have a migraine, but I didn’t do anything. You can almost hear it now. That’s how we have to be with mental illness. I know it’s rough because it feels like stigma. It feels like discrimination and it feels like one more thing that’s put upon us. But the reality is, is anybody managing any illness would probably have to apologize for it. I mean, look, you know, I threw up on Lisa’s mom. It wasn’t my fault, but I definitely owed an apology for it. Lisa: Well, longtime listeners know there’s more to that story, but of course, we don’t hold it against Gabe because he was so apologetic after it happened. Gabe: I felt terrible. Lisa: He definitely made amends. Gabe: But could you imagine if I would have said, hey, I’m five days postop, this ain’t my problem? Lisa: Yeah, screw you. I didn’t mean to. Gabe: I’m not going to offer to clean your car up. Nobody holds it against me because I apologized and because Lisa: And corrected it. Gabe: I was truly sorry and because I made amends and now it’s just, now it’s just a funny story that’s lying in another episode of the podcast that you can dig through and find. And I don’t come off so well, but much like managing depression, I did not manage my post op too well and well, that did give me just a slight bit of culpability. Lisa: But again, no one is holding a grudge because you apologized in a sincere way. Gabe: Lisa, to wrap all this up in a nice bow, you know, managing depression is difficult and it’s one more thing that we have to work on. If you could boil this all down to like one piece of advice, what would it be? What’s like the most important thing to remember when managing depression? Lisa: I don’t know if it’s the most important thing, but something that it was always very helpful to me that a doctor recommended years ago was to make sure that you take time to do things you enjoy. And you’re thinking, I’m depressed, I don’t enjoy anything. Well, try to think of things that you enjoy when you’re not depressed, stuff that you normally enjoy, even if you’re not having a good time with it now. A lot of times when I get depressed, I think, well, I don’t really want to go do that activity because it’s just too much effort. But also, I know I’m not going to enjoy it, and that just makes the depression worse. It becomes this cycle because now I’m not having a good time and I know that I should be having a good time, but I’m not. That’s just really depressing. And you feel like you’re almost wasting your effort. You know, I have a finite amount that I can do this. I’m not going to waste it when I’m in such a bad mood, but it kind of pulls you out of it. I was surprised at how well that worked for me. Forcing yourself to do things that you normally enjoy is extremely beneficial. Gabe: The reality is, is when we only focus on the things that we hate, dislike or that remind us of being lonely, then yeah, that’s all we can focus on. Find the little things, a rerun of a television show that made you laugh or that you have fond memories of just anything, anything to pull you out of it. It really does matter in just a really, really meaningful way. Lisa: And keep in mind, if you have reached recovery, you know it’s possible. I don’t want to say something so simplistic as, oh, this too shall pass, but it is cyclical. I have periods of depression and eventually, through treatment, it gets better. So, it can get better. It will get better. And you know that it will because that’s what has happened to you in the past and that will happen again. You just have to wait it out. Gabe: You know, Lisa, it really sounds like you’re saying that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Lisa: Ooohh, the best predictor of future success is past success, so you know, what you’ve done in the past that has helped and what has hurt? Try to focus on the helped. Gabe: Rinse and repeat, just like your favorite shampoo. Thanks, everybody, for listening to this week’s episode of the Not Crazy podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illnesses Is an Asshole and Other Observations, which, of course, you can get on Amazon.com. But if you want to get it for less money, if you want me to sign it and you want Not Crazy podcast swag, they’re really cool stickers, head over to gabehoward.com and buy it there. I will personally mail it to you with the help of Lisa. Lisa: I was going to say, you’re not doing that personally, I will mail it to you. Don’t worry, it will get there. Gabe: Wherever you downloaded this podcast, please subscribe. Also rank and review, write a review. Use your words and let other people know why they should listen. Lisa: And we’ll see you next Tuesday. Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy Podcast from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. Want to see Gabe and me in person? Not Crazy travels well. Have us record an episode live at your next event. E-mail show@psychcentral.com for details. The post Podcast: Depression Management Hints and Tips first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  6. Thank you Dawn and Paul xXx
  7. To James & Jamsie Happy birthday, We hope you have a wonderful day, We hope you have loads of cards and prezzies. Love Dawn & Paul:) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  8. Thank you very much Dawn and Paul I will give you a ring soon x
  9. To Dino Happy birthday, We hope you have a wonderful day, We hope you have loads of cards and prezzies. Love Dawn & Paul:) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  10. What’s the worst that could happen? And who will you still be regardless of the outcome? In today’s podcast, Gabe talks with author Shira Gura about her newest method CLEAR, a tool we can all use to prepare for an upcoming event or situation that is causing anxiety. Worried about an upcoming exam, a date, or a party where you won’t know anyone? Join us to learn a great method to help CLEAR your head before you go. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Shira Gura- Mentally Prepare’ Podcast Episode Shira Gura is an emotional well-being coach. Her background as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor, and mindfulness teacher led her to create two powerful self-help tools: The unSTUCK Method® and The CLEAR Way®. She is the author two books: Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being (which was awarded winner of the 2017 International Book Award in self-help), and most recently The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Through her coaching, courses, and community, she guides people to live more deliberately. She lives in Israel with her husband and four children. About The Psych Central Podcast Host Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Shira Gura- Mentally Prepare’ Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard. Gabe Howard: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today, we have Shira Gura. Shira’s background is as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher. And it led her to write the book The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. She’s also the host of the Living Deliberately Together podcast. She makes her home in Israel with her husband and four children, Shira, welcome to the show. Shira Gura: Thank you so much. It is so great to be back. Gabe Howard: Well, I am very glad to have you back again now, given all that is going on in the world with COVID-19 being mentally prepared for anything seems more important now than perhaps at any other point, at least in my lifetime. How does your book fit in with everything that’s happening in the world? Shira Gura: Yeah, I actually think obviously when I was writing the book starting last year, this is before COVID hit and I had no idea that the publication of the book was going to come out at the same time during the hit of this pandemic. And it is a wonderful tool for the time period that we’re in right now, because as we’ll get into in the podcast, it’s a tool that helps prepare you before you go into any future moment. It really helps ground you and helps you be ready. Gabe Howard: It sounds like a great, happy accident, and I’m one of these people that I try to stay away from the extremes, you know, black and white thinking has gotten me personally in trouble. It’s interesting to me, because if I would have read the title of your book a year ago, Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything, I would’ve been like anything? Really, anything? But as we did the pre work for the show, I was like, look, if it works in a global pandemic, we might be as far along the path to anything as we can possibly get. So I’m so glad that you wrote the book. Shira Gura: I am, too. Gabe Howard: All right, as we mentioned at the top of the show, you’re a returning guest, so I want to spend just a couple of moments on your previous book and your previous episode where we talked about getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being. Just real quick, sort of baseline it for long time listeners to the show that have heard both episodes. What’s the difference between the unSTUCK method and the CLEAR Way method? Shira Gura: Both tools are really used for emotional well-being, but the unSTUCK method you would really use for something that happened in the past and the past could be a minute ago and it could be 10 years ago. I got stuck on anger. I got stuck on frustration or I was stuck on guilt, are things that already happened. And I’m stuck on them because I have an emotion attached to a story that already happened. I use the unSTUCK method in order to get myself out of the hole, out of that stuck spot. But the CLEAR way is a tool that you use for the future. If you are going into a presentation, if you are anticipating a difficult conversation with someone, if you are about to go to work, if you’re about to work with a client even and you want to just get clear for yourself before you start work, this is where the CLEAR way would be used. They are both powerful self-help tools that are step by step because they’re both based on acronyms, but they are really used for two different purposes. Gabe Howard: Can you give us some examples of where you would want to get clear in your life? Shira Gura: If you can think about any situation where you have a feeling of worry or concern or anxiety or fear going into that moment, this would be the tool that you would use. For example, I got clear before we started this interview. Gabe Howard: Nice. Shira Gura: I got clear. Yeah. And it’s not that I was having so much anxiety. I do interviews a lot. But again, it’s a future moment that I’m not sure what to expect. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if the Internet is going to work. I don’t know if I’m going to stumble on my words. So I need to get clear. Gabe Howard: Thank you so much. And when you pitched being on the show, you said, hey, would Gabe be willing to be a guinea pig and give his own problem and be walked through the CLEAR way? And I thought, hey, why not Shira Gura: We did it on the first episode, and it worked well with getting unSTUCK. Gabe Howard: We did, and it was a lot of fun and I learned some stuff about myself, and I really think that the listeners understood the example, so we’re going to try it again. So can you walk me through the CLEAR way? Shira Gura: I would love to do that, the first thing that we need to know is what do you need to get clear about? So you can think of anything. But we need to pinpoint one example in your life where you have feelings of anticipation, of worry, of concern, of fear going into a future moment. Gabe Howard: I think that’s perfect. I have my first live speech since March coming up in a week. Obviously, I’ve done virtual stuff and continued hosting the podcast, but Gabe Howard in a room with an actual audience whom could throw tomatoes at me, first time in many, many months in a week. Shira Gura: That’s fantastic, that’s a great example. Let’s do that. OK. Gabe Howard: Excellent. All right, what’s step one? Shira Gura: So this is an acronym, five steps, C L E A R, so the first step is C is for calm. It very much relates to the unSTUCK method with the first step, S, was stop. It’s basically the same thing. This is a step where you take a moment to redirect your attention away from the story, away from the future, away from all of the emotions that you’re feeling. And we’re going to bring it to the present moment so that you can allow your mind to rest for a moment. So we’re going to eventually deal with the emotions and kind of go to rational thinking. In order to do that, we really need to get ourselves in a place of calm. And this doesn’t need to be long. It doesn’t need to be a 30-minute meditation. It could be just one deep breath or a few deep breaths, but something even symbolic to say, OK, I’m getting clear. I’m going to start. And the first thing that I’m going to do is get calm. Gabe Howard: Yeah, I’m going to take a real big, deep breath. I don’t know if it will come through on the podcast, but I want to assure the listeners that that I’m doing it. Shira Gura: Ok, and while you’re doing it, if you want, you can close your eyes and you can imagine yourself in the place where you’re going to give the speech, you’re about, let’s say, to walk up the steps to the stage and you’re going to give your speech. And in that moment, you say, I’m getting clear. I’m going to first, I’m going to get calm. Gabe Howard: All right. Shira Gura: All right, the next step is L and that’s for Lighten. When you are going into a future moment, when you have all of these emotions, you probably have emotions that are feeling heavy, right? Emotions of fear and worry and anticipation. Those are heavy feelings and they affect us physiologically. So the next step L for Lighten is we uncover what are the thoughts that we have about the situation as we’re going into it? And then we see if we can lighten our thoughts by slightly changing our language. We’ll do this together. See if you can uncover a thought that you have that says something like, I know something is going to happen, some sort of negative thing is going to happen. Gabe Howard: I know that I’m going to be out of practice, I know that I’m going to stumble over words. I know that the delivery is not going to be as pristine. I mean, it’s been months. There’s just no way that it could be. Shira Gura: Yeah, great. Perfect, and that’s so important for you to uncover what those thoughts are, because they’re there. They’re there in your mind Gabe Howard: Yeah, they are. Shira Gura: And oftentimes we don’t even know or just it’s unconscious. So we’re uncovering them. Now, you’re saying I know I’m going to be out of practice. I know I’m going to stumble. I know my delivery isn’t going to be perfect. And the question is, do we really know that? Do we know what’s going to happen in the future? The truth is, we don’t know. We have no idea what’s going to happen. Right? And so we change our language to it might happen. It’s a possibility that might happen. But we take away like the I know, which is a really heavy thought. And it really kind of creates that reality, like I know it’s going to happen. So that’s what’s going to happen as opposed to I have a feeling that might happen. But you can even hear in my voice, it lightens. It lightens your thought and it affects you again physiologically. Can you try one or two of those changing the language? Gabe Howard: I’m pretty pessimistic by nature, but I can say that you’re right, saying I know is arrogant, right? I can’t see the future, so I can certainly see for Gabe Howard changing it from I know this is going to happen to I think that it might happen or even I’m concerned that it could happen, which I can hear the difference. I’m worried that something will happen. Is a far cry from I know it’s going to happen. I worry about a lot of things that don’t come true. Shira Gura: Yes. Gabe Howard: So you’re right. It does feel significantly lighter. Shira Gura: But the language that we use in our lives is so important for our emotional and mental health. I think it’s something that people just don’t even think about. But it is really important how we use our language. Let’s go to the next step, which is E and this is for Expect. And so here we’re going to uncover what are your expectations, what are your hopes, what do you wish for? What do you want to happen? Gabe Howard: I want, like a standing ovation and fireworks and people cheering. Reasonably, I want a good speech, a good presentation, an engaged audience, I want people to laugh at my jokes and, you know, nod at the serious parts. I want engagement, but I want the audience to behave how I expect the audience to behave. Shira Gura: Awesome. Those are wonderful uncovering of your expectations and it’s so important to uncover your expectations because this is typically what gets us stuck when our expectations aren’t met. You want a standing ovation, you want fireworks, you want cheering. You want a really great speech. You want engagement. That sounds like the most important thing is you want the engagement. You want the nods and the laughter and the Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: Ok, awesome. Right now we’re going to go to the next step. You ready? This one’s kind of tricky. OK. A is for Accept. In this step, we are going to radically accept the opposite of what it is that you want so that if the expectations that you actually want aren’t met, you’re not going to get stuck because you will have accepted in advance the possibility that that was going to happen anyway. In this step we’re not wanting, right? We’re not saying, we’re not wanting the opposite of what we want to have, that’s not what we’re doing. We’re just accepting the possibility that the opposite of what we want may happen because it might. And if it does, and that’s reality, what are you going to do with it besides accept it in that moment? Gabe Howard: So just to clarify a little bit, you know, in my case, I could accept that the crowd would boo and get up and leave, but I think that that’s too far, too extreme. I don’t really see any, I don’t, I don’t see any scenario where that would realistically happen. Realistically, the worst-case scenario is that the audience is bored. It’s probably important for somebody doing this method to not go so extreme. Like I’m going to accept that the audience throws tomatoes at me. That’s probably not a good use of the method. I’m going to accept that the audience is bored. Would that be better? Is like reigning that in smart? Shira Gura: Yes, amazing, so I hope that I’m going to have amazing engagement, right, and I can radically accept that I might not have amazing engagement. Right? Gabe Howard: I’m accepting that there ho-hum. They’re going to be polite. I’m not giving a speech to a hostile crowd, no matter how bad I am, they’ll give the cursory applause at the end. And yeah, I’ve never had tomatoes thrown at me and I’ve never been booed. But I’ve certainly looked out at the audience and seen a lot of people checking their phones and watches and that has happened before. If so, that’s the absolute worst-case scenario and it doesn’t happen very often, but it feels crummy when it does. Shira Gura: The question is, can you accept that now? Can you accept that that’s a possibility that might happen? Gabe Howard: I can, I can, Shira Gura: Ok, great. Gabe Howard: Yes, I can accept that, that they will think that I am ho hum. And they will politely golf clap as I leave the stage. Shira Gura: Good, so I can accept the possibility, right? Gabe Howard: Yes. I can accept the possibility that they may be bored. Shira Gura: Yeah, it’s just a possibility, right, again, not what we wanted Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: It, but it’s a possibility, Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: You can’t move forward if you’re being held back behind. So it’s really important that you can be able to just accept it as a possibility, which you did. Great Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after we hear from our sponsors. Gabe Howard: Hey, Psych Central Podcast fans, before we get started, we’d love for you to take a brief three minute listener survey so we can better understand our audience, which is all of you. Go to PsychCentral.com/Survey20 to complete it now. Everyone who completes a survey will automatically be entered into a drawing to win one of two $75 Amazon gift cards. Special thanks to Savvy Co-op for their survey support. And that Web site again is PsychCentral.com/Survey20. Void where prohibited by law. And now, on with the show. Sponsor Message: Gabe here and I wanted to tell you about Psych Central’s other podcast that I host, Not Crazy. It’s straight talk about the world of mental illness and it is hosted by me and my ex-wife. You should check it out at PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy or your favorite podcast player. Sponsor Message: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Gabe Howard: We’re back speaking with Shira Gura, the author of The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Shira Gura: Last step, R. This is for responsibility. This is where you take responsibility for your way of being, not your way of doing and not your way of having, but your way of being. Who is it that you want to commit to being in an adjective form? So that no matter what happens, there’s not engagement, they don’t laugh at your jokes, you stumble, no matter what happens, you still stay grounded and committed to your way or ways of being. This is where you take responsibility for yourself and you release responsibility of anything outside of you that you don’t really have control over. There’s endless ways that we can be maybe one or three words. What kind of speaker do you want to commit to being? Gabe Howard: I want to commit to being a confident, professional, unflappable speaker. I really feel that the best speakers are ones that don’t attack their audience or their clients or. The best speakers also understand that let’s say that there’s 100 people in the audience and it only takes about 40 or 50 percent of an audience to make the audience seem like they’re uninterested. It’s certainly possible that you got through to 20, 30, 40, 50 percent of the audience. I like what you said about taking responsibility because so often I see speakers get angry at their audience. And I think that’s, that’s not the way this works. They don’t owe you anything. You’re there for them. They’re not there for you. So I like the take responsibility. I like that. I want to be a professional, unflappable speaker. Shira Gura: Good. Awesome. Now, wait a sec. Gabe Howard: Who projects confidence. Shira Gura: Awesome, awesome. I want you to know what you just said again. I really believe language is one of the keys to mental health. I want to be a professional, confident, unflappable speaker. That’s the last thing you just said. Right? I want Gabe Howard: Yes. Shira Gura: To be and listen to how different it is from I want to be that kind of speaker to I am committed to being that kind of speaker. You hear the difference? Gabe Howard: I do, I do. I want to be a good husband versus I’m committed to being a good husband. Like, who do you want to be or who do you want to marry? Somebody who wants to do it or somebody who’s committed to doing it? Shira Gura: Exactly. Gabe Howard: I think of my own relationships and yeah. Yeah, I don’t want somebody that wants to be in a happy marriage. I want to be with somebody who’s committed to being in a happy marriage. Shira Gura: Exactly. Gabe Howard: I think we all understand that in relationships. We’re spreading that out. Right to everything else. I know I’m asking a lot of like questions in between, but yeah, I, you’re right. If my wife came to me and said I want to be happy in our marriage, I think, oh, that doesn’t sound good. But if she said I’m committed to being happy in our marriage, I’d be like, all right, all right, let’s do this. Arm in arm. Let’s go. Nice. I like it. Shira Gura: It’s a different story, right? Gabe Howard: It is, it is. Shira Gura: And it’s like one word, it’s one word, but it changes the world, it really changes the world. So your ways of being are like an anchor to a ship. OK, that is how you are grounding yourself. They are in your ways of being. That’s who you are. So no matter what comes your way, if you’re on a ship and there’s going to be waves and there are going to be waves, right. Things are going to happen. It’s not going to be a smooth run in your marriage or in the talk or in this interview or whatever. Nothing is ever 100 percent smooth. So no matter what happens, your ways of being are your anchor. And so it’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s like I’m committed to doing this. It’s not that I want to be these ways, because if I just want to be these ways, the anchor is going to get unleashed. You know, you’re going to float away. But if you are committed to being these ways, that anchor is going to stay in the ground. So it’s perfect, it’s exactly what you said. And so that’s the last step. And of course, if you want to go more into this work in that last step, what you could do is you could visualize your future self. So what does a confident speaker look like? What does a confident speaker say or act or how does he behave? The next level would be creating your future self ahead of time, seeing yourself ahead of time, being that person and then manifesting it. Gabe Howard: I like it and I can see how it fits together now. Now, just to recap, CLEAR stands for? Shira Gura: Calm, Lighten, Expect, Accept, Responsibility. Gabe Howard: And again, it’s for stuff that’s coming up in the future, so this is what I’d use for my first day of work or my wedding day or even something as simple as my parents coming to visit or my spouse coming home from work. It’s broad appeal. Shira Gura: It could be anything. I worked with my kid last night, he started a new school and he’s 12. The kids in his school have been together since the age of three. And he’s the new kid on the block. And he tends to be shy and he wants to make friends. And no one is really approaching him. And he wanted to approach kids to ask them if they want to play baseball, because here in Israel, nobody plays baseball. They don’t even know what baseball is. But my kids have baseball mitts and they have a baseball. And he wanted to say, does anyone want to have a catch with me, but he was stuck. Right? He was stuck on fear of rejection. And so I sat with him last night before he went to sleep. I said, let’s get clear. Let’s get clear on who you’re going to be no matter what happens, no matter if they reject you and they say no or they say, yeah, let’s have I’d be happy to have a catch with you. Gabe Howard: I like that example a lot, so how can our listeners learn these tools, are they difficult to learn? My question is, is it difficult to learn? My listeners’ question is, is how can they learn? Shira Gura: Yeah, the tools are not difficult. They are simple, right? That’s one of the reasons I created these tools. I created them actually for myself. And then I of course, I teach them to other people, but they are simple to learn. And it’s not so much are they easy to learn or difficult to learn. It’s more of how can I get practice in using them? It’s one thing to acquire a tool. It’s another thing entirely to say I practiced in it. I know how to get unSTUCK from anything. I know how to get CLEAR from anything. And that doesn’t happen overnight. That happens over time in community with people, working with people. That’s really how this happens. So in terms of where you can learn about it, I have two books. Gabe Howard: Yeah, where do they find them? Shira Gura: You can find them on Amazon and you can find them on my website, ShiraGura.com. But what you can also find on my Web site is a course called The Living Deliberately Blueprint. And inside of this course are videos of me walking people through both tools step by step. There are worksheets. There are guided meditations. And in addition to lots of other goodies that are inside of that course, anyone who enrolls is invited into my private Facebook group and free monthly gatherings. So it’s a community, and then it’s, again, the practice. Gabe Howard: Shira, thank you so much for everything. Thank you for helping me with my speech. Next week, I’ll drop you an email and let you know how it goes. Shira Gura: I would love to hear and I would encourage you to get clear minutes before or half an hour before whatever. It’s not enough that we did it here. I would encourage you to do it again, like really have it fresh in your mind and really see yourself on that stage before you go up there. And good luck with it. Gabe Howard: You know, I really like that, and I like that it also becomes something to occupy your mind. As somebody who suffers from anxiety, my mind often ultra focuses on the worst-case scenario. It sounds like by going through the CLEAR method, I can keep my mind occupied on that. Now, again, if you don’t have anxiety or, you know, your mileage may vary, but for me, it gives me something proactive to do to concentrate on. Do you find that in your work? Is that accurate or am I just making stuff up? Shira Gura: No, absolutely, absolutely. In fact, I’m leading a challenge right now inside of my private Facebook group and every person in the challenge is practicing to being one thing. This is broad range. So one person is practicing to be a non-overeater, one person is practicing to be a nondrinker and one person is practicing to be friendly. I mean, it’s really broad. And what I recommend them to do is every single day wake up and affirm out loud who are you being? Because if we’re practicing to be somebody that we’re not typically being, then we’re going to forget. We’re just going to be our default selves. As you wake up every day, and you said, I’m committing to being a loving wife. I am committing to being a nondrinker. You really set the stage for the day by affirming who you are being every single day when you wake up. It sets you up for the day. And like you said, it gives the mind something to rest on in a positive way so that your mind doesn’t slip back into that default place of negativity, which happens for everyone, because that’s just how the human mind works. Gabe Howard: Anything that prevents people from slipping into negativity, I think is its own success. Once you start to think poorly about something, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least that’s been my experience. And certainly, being able to distract your mind with something proactive and positive, I have to imagine, creates a powerful end result. Shira Gura: It totally does, and I’m doing the challenge, by the way, I’m participating and I am committing to being a loving wife. It’s not that I’m like a mean wife or something like that, but I’m probably not like the most loving wife I could be. And I said, you know what? This is what I’m going to work on for 30 days. And I’m constantly finding myself saying this throughout the day. You are committing to being a loving wife, right? Because sometimes it’s not easy. And I just keep saying to myself, in the morning I say it, when my husband comes home from work, I say it, and I just and it’s great. It’s so helpful to have those words in my mind as a reminder, who is it that I want to be? Gabe Howard: Shira, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate having you. Shira Gura: Thank you so much for the interview. It was really great to see you again. Gabe Howard: You’re very, very welcome. Hey, everybody, my name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole, which is available on Amazon, or you can get a signed copy with all kinds of cool swag, including stickers from The Psych Central Podcast for less money just by heading over to gabehoward.com. Let me tell you about our super-secret Facebook page you should absolutely check out, just go to PsychCentral.com/FBShow. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling any time anywhere simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We will see everybody next week. Announcer: You’ve been listening to The Psych Central Podcast. Want your audience to be wowed at your next event? Feature an appearance and LIVE RECORDING of the Psych Central Podcast right from your stage! For more details, or to book an event, please email us at show@psychcentral.com. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/Show or on your favorite podcast player. Psych Central is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, Psych Central offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at PsychCentral.com. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at gabehoward.com. Thank you for listening and please share with your friends, family, and followers. The post Podcast: How to Mentally Prepare for Anything first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  11. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today in a Drug Safety Communication that it is requiring an update to the Boxed Warning, the agency's most prominent safety warning, and requiring class-wide labeling changes for benzodiazepines to include the risks of abuse, misuse, addiction, physical dependence and withdrawal reactions to help improve their safe use. View the full article
  12.  Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, more people than ever are experiencing anxiety, especially those who struggled with mental health issues before COVID-19. And to make things even worse, many of our coping mechanisms, like going to the gym or hanging out with friends, have been taken away. In today’s show, our host, Gabe Howard, talks with Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal, who helps explain why so many people are having anxiety symptoms and what we can do about it. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Managing Anxiety’ Podcast Episode Jasleen Chhatwal, MD, is Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Mood Disorders Program at Sierra Tucson, a premier residential behavioral health treatment center. Dr. Chhatwal also serves as Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Board certified in Psychiatry and Integrative Medicine, she is well versed in psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, psychopharmacology, neuromodulation including ECT & rTMS, and various emerging modalities. Dr. Chhatwal is active in the mental health community, advocating for her patients, colleagues, and profession through elected positions with the Arizona Psychiatric Society and American Psychiatric Association. About The Psych Central Podcast Host Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Managing Anxiety’ Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard. Gabe Howard: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today, we have Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal. She is the chief medical officer and director of Mood Disorders Program at Sierra Tucson, a premier residential behavioral health treatment center. Dr. Chhatwal, welcome to the show. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here. Gabe Howard: Well, we are super excited to have you here today because you’re also an anxiety expert, and many people who aren’t used to feeling the effects of anxiety are because of COVID. I want to start with, are you seeing people that never had anxiety and stress issues before suddenly developing anxiety disorders because of the global pandemic? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: I am noticing that there are a lot of people who notice anxiety type symptoms, and since they’ve never really experienced them before, they’re really taken aback and they don’t really know what’s going on. And so I feel like one of our big duties at this time is to help people become more aware, because I think once you can name the beast, then it’s a lot easier to tame the beast. And I think a lot of individuals will have a hard time if they don’t know what to call it or what to do with it. Gabe Howard: The Psych Central Podcast has been on the air for almost five years, PsychCentral.com has been around for 25 years. So we are well versed in mental health advocacy. And for the most part, it’s always sort of been in its own little corner. There’s the people that have a mental health issue or a mental illness and they understand it. There’s people who develop one or have a loved one who develops a mental health issue or a mental illness, and they’re searching for information. But by and large, the majority of the population was not discussing this openly. We’ve seen that change dramatically in the last six months where suddenly it’s sort of mainstream news about how adults that never had any mental health issues before are suddenly suffering from the symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and on and on and on. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: So a lot of people talk about anxiety like it’s a pathological thing. I really try to explain to people how anxiety is normal. You have to have the neurobiological fear response to be safe as a human being. Like you’re going to the Grand Canyon and walking over the skywalk, the fact that we don’t just climb over the rail and try to jump down is because we do have a biological response to anything that’s not within the normal human experience or scope. If you think about having a snake by your chair, you want to have an anxiety response so that you can quickly panic and run. And what will happen if you don’t have that fear response is you will die because the snake will bite you or you’ll have some pretty negative consequences of that. How can you not have anxiety when you’re being told all day on the news that you need to take all these extra precautions to just be safe, to not fall sick, to make sure your loved ones don’t die. That is something that just normally will cause some degree of anxiety. The difference between that type of anxiety and what can be called a DSM anxiety disorder ends up being that it becomes overwhelming to the point that you can’t function. And what we start to see is people who may have had a higher level of anxiety before, but were being able to do things to help themselves, like going to the gym to work out or going for a run outside or spending time with loved ones. All those people, their coping skills have been taken away. And that is where you start seeing that they now fall into more of that clinical anxiety disorder category. If you look at most mental health conditions, they are on a spectrum. And it just really depends on how far along the spectrum you are today. It could be that today it’s a disorder. But, you know, a week ago or two weeks ago, it wasn’t quite meeting the criteria. Gabe Howard: One of the themes that runs through The Psych Central Podcast is we try to explain that mental health and physical health actually are, they have a lot in common. Meaning most people have good physical health most of the time. But you can still get a cold. You can still get injured. And that’s a very temporary problem. But you can also have, for example, diabetes, which is severe and persistent and lifelong. Mental health is the same way. I think a lot of people think that you either have good mental health or you’re mentally ill and that there’s nothing in between. Do you believe that because of the pandemic, people are starting to realize that everybody has mental health and that you can have the equivalent of a cold, which in this case is stress and anxiety or panic? Do you think this is helping to educate people that we all have mental health and anything can trigger bad mental health? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Yeah, I think reading a lot more content about that in very popular channels. Maybe your podcast or me like this is our world, but other people Gabe Howard: Sure, yeah. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: For whom this is not their world, we are seeing them talk more about mental health. And in my own world, I try not to talk about somebody having just mental illness. I think about mental health on a continuum. You can do things every day to improve your mental health and you can do things every day that may not really be serving it well. The kind of food that you eat, the places that you go to, the people you spend time with, each of those things can help build up that mental health. Gabe Howard: Dr. Chhatwal, thank you so much for establishing that more people are suffering from anxiety and that it’s a very real thing. We’ve been doing this work for a long time, so we’re not surprised by this. But I think that the general population is and one of the hallmarks of being surprised by something is that you don’t know what to do about it. Do you have advice for listeners who are overwhelmed, anxious and filled with stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: The one thing that we can all do and maybe do a little bit better is starting to become more aware. Naming what is going on for you is really important and naming not in the sense of saying, oh, I have so-and-so disorder or diagnoses, but more naming like how does it feel for me? How am I feeling in my body? What are the signs that I’m seeing for myself? What are the changes that I’m seeing in my behavior? So recognizing that you’re not as engaged, you’re not as motivated or fulfilled to saying, OK, well, I don’t really feel like doing my work or when my children ask me a question, I feel exasperated and want to roll my eyes that that can be a step to saying, OK, something is definitely going on. And now let me sit and think how I’m feeling physically. What are the emotions I’m feeling? Some of us have a broader language for emotion and some of us have a narrower language and words for emotion. And that’s OK. Even being able to identify I feel good, I feel bad. That may be a great place to start. And then starting to look at what are really options for you to start to change things that make you feel bad? Is it something related to your job, like either the hours are now feeling too much or the workload is feeling too much. Talking to your human resources department, or when it comes to your home life maybe getting together with your partner or people who live in the household with you, or if you live alone connecting with friends and starting to really talk through this and asking for the support that you might need. Another strategy can be then to start to follow some degree of a schedule, because we hear a lot about pajama sales are on the rise or that people are doing the zoom uniform with the formal top and shorts at the bottom. Gabe Howard: I love that. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Yeah, it’s comfortable and it can also give your mind a signal that you’re just supposed to be relaxing. However, what you’re doing is sitting in front of your computer and working. So now your mind is really confused. It’s like, well, I’m supposed to be feeling relaxed, but I’m doing work. So what we’re hearing from people is that they’re working longer hours because now they’re just connected on the computer all the time. They still have to take care of their children and now they have to go pick up their groceries and wipe them all down like everything’s become just a tiny bit or a whole lot more complicated. And so trying to at least get your life into a little bit of a schedule may make you say, OK, I start my workday at eight and then I am going to end it at five, just like I would normally clock out. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: And then maybe in that evening time you can start to recognize what are pleasurable activities that you can do in your home environment? I’m hearing from people that they can’t work out, but I can tell you, like doing push ups doesn’t take a lot of equipment. And so it may be deciding here right now I can only do five pushups a day. Within the next two weeks or a month, I’ll get up to ten. So setting realistic goals that make you feel like you’re being able to achieve something and that are in a direction of something. For myself, I think two or three months ago I was feeling like, oh, I’m just at home going to work, coming back. But I got myself an easel and canvas and I picked up something I hadn’t done in about a dozen years. I made a painting. It’s not great. I’m not going to sell it, but I did something that was enjoyable. Finding anything that you can do that serves your soul is really very important at this time. Gabe Howard: When all of this started, we sort of had this mindset that, OK, we just need to hunker down and get through it, it’s only going to be a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. Now, here we are and we’re starting to learn that we don’t really know when this is going to be over. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Yeah. Gabe Howard: So now we’re sort of in this kind of like a limbo state where we don’t know if we want to make new habits that we want to last for years or if we should still stay in this, oh, things are going to get back to normal tomorrow. The example that I always use is, look, if I lost my job, I would understand that that job’s not coming back and I would prepare for a new future. But if I was laid off from that job and they told me that as soon as things pick up, we’ll call you back. Well, now what do I do? Do I look for a new job? Do I wait for things to pick up and they call me back and I resume my life? We don’t know when this is going to end. We don’t have that hard stop. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: My advice to people and my thought for myself and my loved ones is that this is maybe a time for us to really start reinventing and reconsidering what our new normal is going to be. We know that not only has the pandemic obviously affected our way of life drastically but also that there’s a potential financial crisis that’s brewing. So really looking at restructuring our lives and seeing are we really on the right path? And even as a human species is the direction that we’re going really the direction we need to go? In all the things that we cannot control, the thing we do get to control is how we’re going to react and how we’re going to start to make our own decisions in our lives. Connection is fairly important. Make sure that there is a regular way to connect with other human beings, even if you’re working from home. I’ve heard these amazing stories about families that do Zoom sessions every week or who will play card games on Zoom or might even just turn on something like a video platform and have conversations throughout the day. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: We’ve done things like with my in-laws and family where we watch a movie at the same time. Also, I think, starting to look in terms of employment and what are sustainable ways to work, because as a culture, we work a lot. And I think a lot of companies are now realizing that maybe people don’t need to be clocked on or on site as much as we previously thought they needed to be. So starting to really see if that is OK for you, because for some people, like telework does not work, and for others, telework seems like the best thing since sliced bread. Gabe Howard: You’ve hit on a very interesting point there with your example of telework, some people absolutely love it other people absolutely hate it. We’re seeing this a lot with anxiety. Some people are handling this pandemic no problem. They have literally zero anxiety. Other people are falling apart at the seams. Why is it hitting some people harder than others? And then there’s this tendency, if you’re one of the people who anxiety is hitting you really, really hard to find somebody who’s managing this global pandemic like gangbusters and compare yourselves to them. And I imagine that makes it much more difficult to manage the anxiety and move forward. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Comparison has always been one of those things that kills your drive and really starts to make you feel deflated because we don’t know what that other person’s life looks like. We don’t know what their life experiences have been. In mental health, now, we’ve noticed for a long time that our early lives have a huge impact on how we respond later on. And some people who are more anxious than others either at this point don’t have access to their usual coping strategies or the other thing could be that a person who has more anxiety likely had more adverse childhood experiences or early life trauma. Some of that trauma can get relived when you’re isolated, alone, don’t have support. And then finally, it can also sometimes be that you’ve had a really comfortable and quote unquote, normal life. And when suddenly something comes and upends your way of life, it may be your first time really facing something that feels overwhelming. So you may not have had practice at managing that before. So the more we think that others are doing well, the more likely it is that we’re more focused on them rather than ourselves. Rather than just sitting and saying, well, you know, Tom seems to be doing really well and I see that Gabe Howard: Right. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Gabe’s kind of killing it, being more connected with yourself is probably your best bet in being able to find that new normal and move forward post pandemic. Gabe Howard: I really like what you said there about if we’re paying attention to others, were clearly not paying attention to ourselves and anxiety is not going to clear up by convincing it that Bob or Jane is living their best life and therefore I should be living my best life as well. It involves more nuance and work than that. Which leads me straight into my next question of how can I know if I’m being realistic about the risks and dangers and when I’m letting anxiety just simply get the better of me? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Anxiety can get the better of anybody. It is a neurobiological response. We have this tiny area in our brain called the amygdala, whose job it is to give us fear signals. It’s really once you start feeling like you can’t quite function in your life, you’re not really being able to do the things that you typically can get done, or especially if you start having thoughts about suicide or not wanting to live or starting to feel like your life is not worth it. Those are danger signs and those are times I would say don’t even think, go seek help. There’s really no harm in seeking help. And if nothing else, most of our communities have what we call warm lines. And you can call those and speak to somebody and see if that starts to help you, because a lot of us may not be able to clearly think about what’s happening to us till we start speaking about it. I usually say, you know, if you go to a therapist, you can always decide you don’t go for the second visit. It’s not like they’re going to force you to come by. You at least start to tell your story and start to try that out as an option for if that’s going to help you or not. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these messages. Sponsor Message: Gabe here and I wanted to tell you about Psych Central’s other podcast that I host, Not Crazy. It’s straight talk about the world of mental illness and it is hosted by me and my ex-wife. You should check it out at PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy or your favorite podcast player. Sponsor Message: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Gabe Howard: We’re back discussing COVID-19 anxiety and stress with Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal. Gabe Howard: Now, Sierra Tucson has started a program called Health Care Heroes, and that’s specifically designed to treat doctors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers coping with the trauma of disease and death from coronavirus. How can you help health care workers heal from this tragic experience? Because up until now, we’ve been talking about just lay people managing the pandemic, but they’re literally on the front lines. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Health care workers are already at a greater risk of fatigue, burnout, suicide, and that was pre-pandemic. Most of us generally go to school and do years of training with the goal of helping other fellow humans. And so now that the pandemic has really challenged our own lives and we’ve also had to go to work with having increased anxieties about being exposed, most of us may also know fellow health care workers who may have contracted coronavirus and may even have lost their lives to coronavirus. From a health care worker perspective, I feel like life is more stressful than it has ever been. You are being called to really show up and help people. However, we also haven’t quite had all the tools that we typically need, for all the shortages of PPE, shortages of ventilators, increased hospital bed capacities. People are working longer hours. There is more expected of them and there’s less reward because we are losing our patients. We are seeing people be sicker. Health care workers themselves are experiencing helplessness. And there has been so much stigma around seeking mental health support for even lay people and then for health care workers, it’s compounded because we then have to start reporting it to our boards or we need to start telling people that we’re getting mental health treatment. A lot of health care workers are used to kind of putting on their armor and saying, I’m OK, I can work long hours, I can do what needs to be done. So, Sierra Tucson as a group, when we started looking through, how could we show up and help our community and help our people, we decided to try to create this program which we want to make it OK for people to say I’m not OK. That’s the message that we’re trying to give. It’s OK to need support. And we’re here for you. We are also health care professionals and we’re experts in trauma healing. And we’re uniquely positioned at this time to support our fellow health care professionals with a nurturing environment, trauma focused therapies, and then also additionally peer support. So finding ways to help them get back on that spectrum of mental health, to move closer towards mental wellness and further away from having a mental health diagnosis or mental illness. There are health care workers who already live with mental health conditions prior to this. So making it OK for them also to know that they can take time off and really care for themselves because they’re the most important person. Gabe Howard: From my perspective, it doesn’t serve the greater society to have a health care worker who is so stressed out, so overwhelmed or is suffering from a mental illness or a mental health condition, not seek treatment, because how beneficial are they going to be to my care if they themselves are in crisis or potentially in crisis? So, do you want health care workers who know that they’re at risk for a mental health issue, not seek help because they’re afraid of the stigma, the discrimination, the judgment? That doesn’t serve the greater good. Are people starting to realize that? Do you see a shift both in terms of health care workers being willing to seek help and in the general society understanding that, hey, health care workers are people too? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Interestingly, it seemed like maybe the pandemic has helped, that people are more accepting that, oh, this is traumatic and you’re hearing the word trauma a lot more. I would like to say it’s slowly improving. And I think the more the general public accepts mental health conditions, the easier it will be even for health care workers. But it’s still very hard. It’s still not a good place. We’re not doing well by our people. I think the big piece of that is that we’re separating physical and mental health and you just can’t do that. One thing affects the other. Even with something like anxiety, which is what we’ve been talking about, you have physical symptoms. You feel like your heart is beating. You have chest pain. People show up to the E.R. thinking they’re having a heart attack when they’re having a panic attack. Unless we as a society, the health care system, insurance companies in their own areas start to really marry the two together and say it’s whole health, we really can’t get away from stigma. Like we said right in the beginning, everybody has mental health and everybody has physical health. And like the WHO says, there is no health without mental health. So we’ve got to get them together. Gabe Howard: I completely agree with your assessment that the pandemic does seem to be helping mental health understanding because so many people are in the exact same boat. They themselves are suffering from anxiety because of COVID. So therefore, they’re less likely to be judgmental against somebody else who’s suffering from anxiety. Also, if a global pandemic doesn’t cause anxiety, I don’t know what will. For some reason when somebody says I’m anxious, our first question is why? And then we decide if that’s a good reason, that’s very unfair. Right? To determine if somebody is allowed to be anxious based on the reason that they give — anxiety doesn’t work that way. Is that correct? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: You’re exactly right, Gabe, anxiety can only be assessed by a person’s own barometer. So, myself, I’m not scared of heights. I used to skydive, but I have a friend. We went together to the Grand Canyon and they have a walkway on the Nevada side. And we were walking over it and she was like, nope, not doing it, not doing it. And I was like, oh, come on, we’ll walk and well, I’m trying to hold her hand. And she just couldn’t. So I can’t say she is more anxious than I am because it’s not the same for everything. She may not be anxious in a lot of other situations that I may be anxious in. And so anxiety is per your own context, and it is per the lessons you’ve learned in life for things that are fearful to you, the stories you tell yourself. And it’s usually from early life experience, you’ve either had a negative experience with something, so you’re more fearful of it, or you’ve been told stories about that thing that make you more worried. So there are all those components which fall into the nurture category. And then some people do have just a slightly higher sensitivity. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: And that becomes the nature element, which is your genetics, how your amygdala, which is the fear center, like how that’s tuned. And some people just have a more sensitive amygdala. Their fear response is greater. And then we also know that having negative experiences early on in life will make it that your fear center kind of reacts a lot quicker or may start to be easy to get stimulated. So if you’ve had a lot of early life trauma, it’s almost like your fear muscle is stronger so you can react a lot quicker and that is an evolutionary mechanism for human beings to keep themselves safe. So when we were hunter gatherers, if we were roaming around dangerous areas and there were going to be javelinas chasing us, then our fear around javelinas would need to be a lot more to protect ourselves. And for your listeners who don’t know what javelina is, you can Google it. It’s a wild animal. It’s a wild boar that we have here in Arizona. So that’s really my Gabe Howard: Oh, wow. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Closest context. They’re mean looking creatures. Gabe Howard: Dr. Chhatwal, I have one more question, which is kind of an ironic question, and that’s why I saved it to the very end. All of the content surrounding COVID-19, it can be overwhelming. It can be disturbing. It can be hard to listen to. How can our listeners balance staying informed with the information that they need to stay safe like this podcast, for example, but also not be overwhelmed by this onslaught of negativity brought on by just constant COVID-19 information? Much of it scary, quite frankly. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: It really is. I’ve recommended and I practice this in my own life to take sort of a news break or a news holiday to stop listening to the news. Because when people are sitting at home, they’re just listening to the news channels all day sometimes. So really giving yourself a sliver of time when you look at whatever content that you want to look at and then put it away. Also looking at platforms that maybe present this news in a more palatable format. So maybe like your podcast. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Everybody can tune in to Psych Central. You have a great sense of humor and you try to make it approachable. Some people listen to the late night comedy shows which will give you the information you need, but with a chuckle. You can also subscribe to news outlets now have daily newsletters that they can send you with the headlines. So maybe that you say, I’m not going to read all the news, I’m just going to get a newsletter and look at it once in the day. So that’s one way of reducing your exposure, not only in quantity, but also just in intensity. And then it’s good to balance it out with positive things, things that bring you pleasure, things that make you feel better about your world. I hope your listeners will do something to add value to somebody else’s life. And that may be in the form of helping out their neighbors who are elderly with their grocery shopping and may be checking in with their friends who are also stressed out. Creating some sort of a book club, whatever it is that is part of their own interest, but a way to start feeling better about yourself, because whenever we give value to somebody else, that’s really our best way of getting some positive back to us. That can be a way to move forward at this time with more kindness in our world and really being able to rebuild our communities in a more wholesome way and going in a direction, as a country, as a human species that will take us all in a positive direction with the lessons that we’ve learned from the pandemic. We can’t let these lessons go to waste. That would be a waste of a pretty awful condition. And usually, I think if there’s adversity, you want to try and get something out of that adversity, learn a lesson, build some resilience so that in the future you have more skills to move forward in your life. Gabe Howard: We want to find the silver lining in the cloud. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Definitely, yeah. Gabe Howard: Thank you so much for being here. Where can folks find you online? Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: I’m present on LinkedIn, which is one of the places I’m trying to get better at. I’m also on Twitter. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of Twitter yet, but I just started last week. That’s my goal for the next month. I’m going to try to learn this. And if any of your listeners are excellent at Twitter then I would say, please send me tips and I will help you with mental health education and sending you interesting information about mental health. Gabe Howard: That sounds like a great deal. Once again, thank you so much for being here. We really, really appreciate it. Jasleen Chhatwal, MD: Thanks so much, Gabe, it was so wonderful to talk to you. Gabe Howard: All right, everybody, my name is Gabe Howard and I’m the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole, which is available on Amazon, or you can get signed copies for less money by going to my website at gabehoward.com. You can also subscribe to the show’s Facebook page just by going to PsychCentral.com/FBShow. Please remember to subscribe to the podcast. Share us on social media. Rate, rank and review. Use your words. Tell people why they should listen and remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling any time anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We’ll see everybody next week. The post Dealing With Anxiety in the Time of COVID-19 first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  13. It seems like everyone I talk to lately is tired, and not because they’re suddenly more active or more productive than usual. In fact, most of them can’t tell you exactly why they’re so tired, they just are. This isn’t to say people aren’t busy, they are — just in new and taxing ways. But these new kinds of busyness and the “new normal” brought on by the coronavirus is causing many of us to feel mentally fatigued. Mental fatigue is something that occurs when your brain goes into overdrive. You can’t stop thinking, worrying, anticipating, planning, etc., and this constant parade of changing thoughts can lead to exhaustion. This isn’t uncommon, most of us have experienced this at one point or another, usually when there’s a big project or event coming up. But lately mental fatigue seems to be the rule rather than the exception for many. Why Your Brain May Be More Tired Than Normal Most of us feel we’re rolling with the punches to some degree while the world around us changes. But the truth is these changes take a psychological toll on us all. You may be working, but your work has changed. Kids are in school, but school has changed. You may be healthy, but for how long? And there are marches, riots, and an upcoming election to consider. No matter how much you try to focus on your own small piece of the world the world around you is having an effect on you. In a normal environment, you know what to expect and how to navigate things. You probably have work under control, school schedules are structured, and the regular chaos of life ebbs and flows at a fairly predicable rate. Sometimes you’re stressed, sometimes you’re not, and occasionally you feel mentally fatigued when things are particularly crazy. But our current state of prolonged instability and change is something different. It’s like noise that’s always playing around us as we try to get through the day-to-day. Our brains naturally try to assign structure and normalcy to our personal environments, but the current noise can be deafening and distracting, and is changing all the time making it all that more difficult to put things in order and operate normally. This means your brain must work even harder to try and be productive and create routines and stability. What Happens When Your Brain Is Tired for Too Long? If you work your shoulders or legs too hard, they get sore, right? Well, your brain may not become sore like overworked quads, but it absolutely shows signs of overuse. Mental fatigue has several tell-tale signs. See if any of these sounds familiar: Inability to focus. When your brain is tired, it isn’t working at optimal levels. Just like your legs won’t carry you through marathon after marathon (or even fractions of that for most of us), your brain will eventually slow down too. This often shows up as an inability to stay focused on tasks and responsibilities, leaving you feeling scattered, disorganized and impeding your ability to complete tasks successfully. Physical exhaustion. Yes, your brain affects your body. When your brain is tired, it can make your whole body feel tired, effectively signally that you need a break. Shutting down through sleep is our normal physiological method for relieving the stress on our brain. Unfortunately, mental exhaustion itself can make sleeping difficult. Difficulty sleeping. While you may be tired and your brain may need a break, it can often be very difficult to turn things off. The overstimulation caused by the environment around us means that we may not sleep as well. How many times have you tried to solve the world’s problems while laying in bed? Or stewed over the things you should have said or done earlier in the day? Constant feeling of stress and anxiety. Mental exhaustion and the persistent noise around us can lead to a constant feeling of stress and anxiety. It can feel like there’s ALWAYS something to worry about, so even if your corner of the world is handled and organized, there’s no relief or sense of calm. Over time, unrelenting stress and anxiety can lead to depression as well. Lack of patience or sudden bursts of anger. If your fuse suddenly seems shorter than normal and you find yourself feeling irritable and angry all the time it can be a result of an overworked brain. When you’re not operating at optimal levels and feel scattered, tired, and stressed it can be very difficult to exercise the appropriate levels of patience. Any of these ringing a bell? Tips To Rest and Reset This can be harder to do than it sounds. Turning off and tuning out the noise around us initially requires concentration which is difficult when you are already having a tough time concentrating. But the focus in this case is on being mindful and calm in order to give yourself a break. Mental exhaustion won’t just get better — you need to give your brain a rest and break the cycle. Any of these can be helpful. Get outside. Nature is calming, so use what’s around you. Being mindful of what you’re seeing and experiencing. Turn off the TV and internet. There’s bad news everywhere right now, don’t let yourself be inundated with it. Try music instead. Exercise. This is a good idea for so many reasons. By getting physical you’ll relieve stress, sleep better, and improve your physical condition. Read. The escape into something that has nothing to do with the world around you can provide a healthy break. The longer we let mental fatigue continue the harder it becomes to break the cycle. Over time you may experience physical issues, emotional problems, or full-scale burnout. And these all leave you incapable of navigating your life in a healthy and happy way. The post Is Your Brain Tired? You May Be Mentally Fatigued first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  14. I promise to choose you, in good times and in bad. Till death do us part. I was in my early twenties when I pledged those words to my husband. Like many young brides, I promised these things without having experienced a lot of life. Difficult times did come: a miscarriage, health scares, layoffs, losing two parents to long illnesses, and more. But we plowed through and came out on the other side stronger, proudly wearing our scars; living proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It felt like there was nothing we couldn’t handle. We are bullet proof, he always says. Then, something happened that we could not just simply plow through and overcome: my husband was diagnosed with chronic depression. Fast forward a couple of years later, with the right medical support, proper medication and education, we are not only in a good place, we are in a better place than we ever were. We have a deeper understanding of who we are and what we need — forever changed by this new truth that will always be a part of us. My husband’s diagnosis was the hardest and greatest thing that happened to our family. Here are some ways that it has changed our family for the better: 1. We talk frequently and openly about mental illness. We talk regularly as a family about how everyone is feeling. We explain how some brains work differently than others and how medication, nutrition, sleep and exercise can affect our moods. We talk about the chemicals in our body. We talk about drugs, hormones, anger, sadness and anxiety. We encourage our kids to talk to us about anything that makes them feel different, free of judgement. This is a place where you can bring your complete self. You will always be loved, heard and safe. 2. We put the odds in our favor. My father repeated this throughout my childhood: luck is a residue of design so put the odds in your favor. We all have triggers that cause us not to be our best selves. As an introvert, I need at least an hour each day where I am alone to read, write, listen to a podcast or do something creative. This time is necessary for me to be a patient mom, a supportive partner and a pleasant human the other 23 hours of the day. My husband needs something else: a good night’s sleep, his morning medication and he feels his best when he is eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting out of the house for a daily change in scenery. Through trial, error, observation and many conversations, we’ve learned more about what we need to be the best version of ourselves. This is what we intentionally and deliberately prioritize each day. This allows us to live like the odds are forever in our favor. Thanks Dad. 3. We accept that there will be bad days. Living with depression means you will have good days and bad days. We expect these to happen and remember that not every day will be like this. Bad days are temporary; we acknowledge them and try not to dwell over them more than we should. We forgive quickly and completely. There will be many good days too and we never take those days for granted. We don’t pretend to be perfect or thrive to be flawless. In this family, when you are unlovable, we come together and love you harder until you are ready to love yourself again. My husband talks about his depression journey every chance he gets. He selflessly takes any opportunity to help someone and make them feel like they are not alone. I’ve never felt the things he describes feeling. But I have lived through the heartbreak and the bad days. I’ve also seen how this has given us the tools to prepare our children, who might inherit this disease, to recognize the signs of mental illness. I’ve learned how to make choices that increase our chances at happiness. I’ve learned that perfection is not the goal. And after every storm, the sun always shines again. Bullet proof, he says. After 19 years, I can honestly say that there is no one else I would rather be taking bullets with. The post How My Husband’s Chronic Depression Forever Changed Our Family -- for the Better first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  15. Thirty years ago, the atmosphere surrounding mental health and suicide was very different than it is today, especially in some areas. Even today, where you live could affect the information, help, and reactions you receive. Since that time, I’ve learned a better way to respond when a loved one struggles. If someone you care about changes in some way, something may be wrong. The difficulties go beyond available support. According to statistics, most people who ultimately end their lives are dealing with a mental illness or behavior disorder — whether they realize it or not — though this is not always true. Excessive stress or a combination of things can be factors that also might lead to thoughts of suicide. Signs? Sometimes there are none. Sometimes changes in personality are complicated by attempts to self-medicate with substances like alcohol or drugs or excessive behaviors such as spending money wildly or doing something uncharacteristic such as making sudden major decisions about lifestyle or beliefs. These are just a few examples. Sometimes you may have only a vague feeling a problem exists; not everyone displays telltale behavior changes. To complicate matters, not all changes like this are serious, especially in the volatile teen years, though young people and children can become mentally ill. If you think there might be a problem or if you feel you need help yourself, here is what I want you to know. Mental health is a spectrum that affects us all. We can fall on various points of the spectrum at different times in our lives, and stress does affect our mental health. Appropriate care is important just as it is for the rest of your body. There is no shame in seeking help for mental health or behavioral issues. If others disagree, they are either inexperienced or ill-informed. Be patient and either share what you learn with them or minimize contact if it hinders your well-being or that of your loved one. Millions of people live successful and productive lives while dealing with mental issues. Throughout human history, this includes some of the most creative, intelligent, and kind individuals. You can do this. There is always hope for improvement. Learning about your condition and following through with mental health professionals takes time, but if you feel you do not have a good match, seek help elsewhere. Staying with it is worth the effort. Today, there are many tools that can help. It’s okay to ask questions, and it’s okay to have boundaries that you ask others to respect. Support of all kinds can help. Family and friends, as well as professionals such as counselors and nutritionists, peers taking care of their own mental health, and support groups can be part of your wellness team. If you have co-occurring problems, these need to be addressed, too. Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings are offered virtually now as well as locally, and confidentiality is respected. Other groups operate in similar ways. Ask your doctor for guidance if you need help with withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. Counselors can help you work through relationship or family issues. The stress of life and of dealing with mental illnesses, behavioral disorders, and substance abuse or familial problems may seem overwhelming sometimes, but there are coping strategies and options for medications you can use. If thoughts of suicide seem like a way to escape, know that these are only thoughts, not truths. They are temporary. Yet, they are serious and can become consuming. Knowing these are lies and having resources, plans for coping, and a suicide crisis line handy is your best line of defense. Suicide leaves behind deep pain and destruction. The lives of loved ones and friends are changed forever, and the struggle to survive is difficult. If you love someone who is suicidal, don’t leave. Call for help. Be patient. Reassure him or her that your love is unconditional, that he or she can survive this, that things will get better. Repeat some of the information on this list to provide light in a dark place or sit quietly and listen to share your strength. Remind your loved one these feelings will pass. Also actively take care of your own mental health. Be in this together with those you love. Educate yourself. Ask doctors or counselors how you can help, even if it is just by sending them a letter that could shed light on the situation. Be courageous. Seek support, and involve yourself in appropriate groups like Al-Anon or Narc-Anon. Encourage your loved one by offering to take a walk outside with him or take on some of her chores. The future is unwritten. Whatever the problems are, they are not insurmountable though they certainly may feel that way. The post What I Wish I Had Said about Mental Health and Suicide first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  16. Just like physical health, it is important to check one’s mental health amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. When countries announced lockdown orders, many people were confined to their homes, away from family and friends. View the full article
  17. In dealing with COVID on a daily basis and continually bemoaning its effects on us as individuals and a society, we wistfully anticipate a return to “normal,” though arguably a normal that will be noticeably different than our past. What we miss is that it may be worth considering the potential positive impact of COVID. One of the largest impacts may be felt in the mental health field. We know that COVID has increased the incidence and intensity of anxiety and depression.1 Clearly that burdens the current mental health care system. However, it also means that many more people are becoming aware of the realities of mental health issues. While we know that 1 in 6 people experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, we now have far more people experiencing an acute episode exacerbated by the pandemic, and many more family members and friends also impacted by loved ones, finding themselves also learning how to provide support. This is working to heighten the awareness of mental health issues and may help to diminish stigmatization and accelerate a change in societal attitudes. Moreover, COVID has had an impact on the delivery of psychological services: some therapists are offering tele-sessions. Though such sessions diminish some aspects of a complete sensory person-to-person office visit, they do have advantages, particularly seen with younger clients. While many find the office to be a stressful, formal environment, being at home may allow the client to be in a more familiar, comfortable space making it easier for them to open up. In addition, some therapists are reporting that seeing clients in a sliver of their home space may also give them glimpses into their world, through the setting and items displayed as meaningful to them. This can be particularly helpful for working with a more reserved or reticent individual. COVID has challenged our normal means of socialization and maintaining interpersonal relationships. While this has increased the instances of domestic violence and stoked toxic relations, it has also been an opportunity for families to strengthen their bonds and rekindle their connections as they have been required to spend more time together. There are numerous anecdotes of parents and older children conversing more and thereby gaining a better understanding of each other as well as learning to enjoy each other’s company. Parents are learning about social influencers and TikTok and how teenage angst, while still based on the same anxieties, has transformed since their time. Teens are learning that their parents actually can may understand more than they previously assumed, even though their experiences are different, and they may also find humor and insight into their own challenges from their parents’ experiences. The slowdown that COVID has demanded has allowed many people to discover pleasures at home they were not aware of or had forgotten, from cooking and sharing a meal, to movie night in, to gardening and looking at a starry night while listening to the howl of neighbors at 8 p.m. This experience has compelled us to rediscover and reimagine community. Connections have definitely been redefined with technology playing a far larger role. We are quick to observe the deficiencies of virtual communication, but there are also advantages. Older adults have lagged behind this generation in technological savviness, but not only that, reticently testing and dipping into their primary modes of communication. Now, we are faced with learning to communicate by their primary modes, which result in increasing the technological competency of a greater part of society. This has a number of positive ramifications. First, virtual visits allow more people to speak to one another across vast geographical distances, and not only to speak but to see one each other. Grandparents and grandchildren living states apart can visit, letters to pen pals from different countries can be replaced by real time synchronous visits. Virtual connections may actually help older people, shut-ins, and those with chronic conditions to avoid feeling lonely and isolated. We have the possibility to connect more with those we love and those we know little about to better appreciate the lives of others who are different than our own. We also know that COVID has forced dramatic changes to learning. First, it is important to distinguish between online and remote learning. Online learning, to professionals, means asynchronous lessons completed without real time interaction. It allows for widespread dissemination and is less appealing to students as it is less interactive, more passive form of learning. Remote learning engages teachers and students in real time. All students do not have access to the technology needs for successful remote or online learning; however, in the twenty-first century, that access is becoming more fundamental to student success since technological skill is also significant in employability. Given that we will need to address that need, consider how learning is being innovated. In remote teaching (as well as business), teachers and presenters can share far more material of their own design and from around the world through the enormous “library” of the web. Moreover, teachers and students become more skilled in multi-media forms of communication which also enhances their critical thinking skills. Crisis often propels innovation, and at this time that is particularly true on the technological front. We face security concerns and a diminishing of in-person interactions, but there is also much to be gained from the expansion of our abilities to connect to others throughout the world. It can be refreshing to take a moment to consider the potential fruits that can emerge from the current storm. Reference: Mental Health America. (2020, August 11). More Than A Quarter Million People Screened Positive For Depression, Anxiety Since Start Of The Pandemic. The post Are There Potentially Positive Outcomes from COVID-19? first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  18. In dealing with COVID on a daily basis and continually bemoaning its effects on us as individuals and a society, we wistfully anticipate a return to “normal,” though arguably a normal that will be noticeably different than our past. What we miss is that it may be worth considering the potential positive impact of COVID. One of the largest impacts may be felt in the mental health field. We know that COVID has increased the incidence and intensity of anxiety and depression.1 Clearly that burdens the current mental health care system. However, it also means that many more people are becoming aware of the realities of mental health issues. While we know that 1 in 6 people experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, we now have far more people experiencing an acute episode exacerbated by the pandemic, and many more family members and friends also impacted by loved ones, finding themselves also learning how to provide support. This is working to heighten the awareness of mental health issues and may help to diminish stigmatization and accelerate a change in societal attitudes. Moreover, COVID has had an impact on the delivery of psychological services: some therapists are offering tele-sessions. Though such sessions diminish some aspects of a complete sensory person-to-person office visit, they do have advantages, particularly seen with younger clients. While many find the office to be a stressful, formal environment, being at home may allow the client to be in a more familiar, comfortable space making it easier for them to open up. In addition, some therapists are reporting that seeing clients in a sliver of their home space may also give them glimpses into their world, through the setting and items displayed as meaningful to them. This can be particularly helpful for working with a more reserved or reticent individual. COVID has challenged our normal means of socialization and maintaining interpersonal relationships. While this has increased the instances of domestic violence and stoked toxic relations, it has also been an opportunity for families to strengthen their bonds and rekindle their connections as they have been required to spend more time together. There are numerous anecdotes of parents and older children conversing more and thereby gaining a better understanding of each other as well as learning to enjoy each other’s company. Parents are learning about social influencers and TikTok and how teenage angst, while still based on the same anxieties, has transformed since their time. Teens are learning that their parents actually can may understand more than they previously assumed, even though their experiences are different, and they may also find humor and insight into their own challenges from their parents’ experiences. The slowdown that COVID has demanded has allowed many people to discover pleasures at home they were not aware of or had forgotten, from cooking and sharing a meal, to movie night in, to gardening and looking at a starry night while listening to the howl of neighbors at 8 p.m. This experience has compelled us to rediscover and reimagine community. Connections have definitely been redefined with technology playing a far larger role. We are quick to observe the deficiencies of virtual communication, but there are also advantages. Older adults have lagged behind this generation in technological savviness, but not only that, reticently testing and dipping into their primary modes of communication. Now, we are faced with learning to communicate by their primary modes, which result in increasing the technological competency of a greater part of society. This has a number of positive ramifications. First, virtual visits allow more people to speak to one another across vast geographical distances, and not only to speak but to see one each other. Grandparents and grandchildren living states apart can visit, letters to pen pals from different countries can be replaced by real time synchronous visits. Virtual connections may actually help older people, shut-ins, and those with chronic conditions to avoid feeling lonely and isolated. We have the possibility to connect more with those we love and those we know little about to better appreciate the lives of others who are different than our own. We also know that COVID has forced dramatic changes to learning. First, it is important to distinguish between online and remote learning. Online learning, to professionals, means asynchronous lessons completed without real time interaction. It allows for widespread dissemination and is less appealing to students as it is less interactive, more passive form of learning. Remote learning engages teachers and students in real time. All students do not have access to the technology needs for successful remote or online learning; however, in the twenty-first century, that access is becoming more fundamental to student success since technological skill is also significant in employability. Given that we will need to address that need, consider how learning is being innovated. In remote teaching (as well as business), teachers and presenters can share far more material of their own design and from around the world through the enormous “library” of the web. Moreover, teachers and students become more skilled in multi-media forms of communication which also enhances their critical thinking skills. Crisis often propels innovation, and at this time that is particularly true on the technological front. We face security concerns and a diminishing of in-person interactions, but there is also much to be gained from the expansion of our abilities to connect to others throughout the world. It can be refreshing to take a moment to consider the potential fruits that can emerge from the current storm. Reference: Mental Health America. (2020, August 11). More Than A Quarter Million People Screened Positive For Depression, Anxiety Since Start Of The Pandemic. The post Are There Potentially Positive Outcomes from COVID-19? first appeared on World of Psychology. View the full article
  19. Have you ever found yourself suddenly ill at ease? You might feel flustered or agitated. Your heart starts to race, or you catch yourself darting toward the door or to the kitchen to do some mindless comfort eating. The next time this happens, reflect and ask yourself: Who is in the room with me? Who did I just talk with? What did I just experience? What’s going on around me? Negative emotions from the people around us — including fear, worry, anxiety, and stress — pass from one person to another quickly, often with few or no words, like a highly contagious virus. If you spend an evening, for instance, social distancing outdoors with stressed-out neighbors who are drinking heavily, do you have a hard time keeping your own drinking in check? Does your workday start out productive but end up derailed from a snarky colleague’s endless rants? If you’re volunteering in your community, do you come home feeling de-energized after being pelted with committee members’ countless complaints? Even our physical health and our susceptibility to medical diseases are related to the company we keep. What we eat, how much we sleep, how sedentary we are, and how much exercise we get is strongly influenced by the people we choose to associate with. But why, exactly, does all of this happen? It’s all in the way we’re hardwired. The human brain has evolved over many thousands of years to pick up any and all potential threats and negative feelings expressed by those nearby. Neurobiologist Dr. Charles Stevens, a nationally recognized expert at the Salk Institute’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory in California, told us, “There’s a neural basis for how we share emotions. Cells in our brain will fire in the same way as the nervous system that we’re watching. Our nervous systems respond similarly. They’re linked — they mirror each other — to whomever we are observing and close to.” As if tethered by invisible cords, we’re wired to replicate the moods of others — including worry, anxiety, and sadness — just by being in the same room. The positive moods of others are just as easily replicated. Other research shows that moods can spread among networks of people like a social contagion. Sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School and political scientist James Fowler of UC San Diego looked at data from a 20-year study that included information on the social networks of 4,739 people. Called the Framingham Heart Study, the research followed people from 1983 to 2003. The results were startling: On average, they found that for every happy friend in your social network, your own chance of being happy rises by 9 percent. For every one unhappy friend, your chance of being happy decreases by 7 percent. Happiness — as well as unhappiness — was essentially spread and shared. Three ways to manage your reactions: The good news is that, with practice, you’ll become better at detecting — and then avoiding or managing your reaction to — the people around you who are frequently swimming in their own private thoughts or negative states of mind. Conversely, you’ll also be able to better detect those people who lift your spirits and support your goals and move to secure close relationships with them. Here are three ways to start: 1. Get comfortable saying no. You’re not obliged to give yourself over to others — not your time, not your energy, not your happiness. Give yourself permission to question or say no to situations that pull you down. This is an especially important skill to practice around authority figures, family, and highly persuasive individuals. Saying no can be as simple as stating, “I wish I could do that, but it’s not possible for me.” Create a simple phrase and rehearse it many times before you meet up with highly demanding people. 2. Mitigate negative interactions when it’s impossible to escape them. It’s not always possible to walk away from difficult people. Workplaces are particularly challenging. You come into direct, prolonged contact with groups of people under stress. In that environment, it’s all too easy to pick up negative emotions, and this can seriously rob you of your agency. In these situations, try this strategic psychological operations (PSYOP) technique: selectively ignore certain people, and navigate around the drama to keep your mind clear. Instead of engaging, shrug or make a lighthearted joke when coworkers become negative or competitive. In personal situations, turn to humor. We know one couple who imagine their loud, self-absorbed in-laws as characters in a Woody Allen movie, and they encourage each other to keep talking even when these family members monopolize the conversation. It’s an amusing (and effective) way to keep negative emotions from ruining every holiday dinner. 3. Address your stressors head-on. Sometimes, the tensions we perceive as negative — and about us — have nothing to do with us at all. For example, let’s say your coworker invites you to a Zoom call in preparation for an upcoming sales meeting. He’s curt and visibly frustrated. After a few minutes, you ask, “You seem stressed. Are you concerned about our meeting?” Your coworker releases a long, deep breath and smiles. “No,” he reassures you. He explains that he’s been juggling back-to-back meetings while homeschooling his kids, and he hasn’t had a break in what feels like ages. It would have been easy to mistakenly attribute your coworker’s stress to yourself — or speculate that there was impending bad news related to the meeting. The takeaway? Always ask for clarification. Don’t assume that what you’re sensing is directly related to you or that it must continue. Tensions can often be defused, or disappear entirely, simply by facing them squarely. View the full article
  20. Each day, from every corner of the world, people left in the devastating aftermath of suicide call out to other survivors of such loss wherever they gather. It is helpful to connect with people who have experienced similar tragedies and are trying to make sense of what happened to their lives. Another, more painful reason they seek comfort from strangers is this: in the case of suicide, those who knew them best often withdraw or are unable to help because of misunderstanding and fear. Most do survive and go on to rebuild, but some experience multiple suicides and a few follow loved ones by ending their own lives. As a survivor myself, I listen to their voices. I hear the pain they feel. I share it. And I try to pass on the positive things I’ve learned on my own grief journey. Healing is possible. It won’t always feel as heavy as it does now. Love outlasts pain. I’m an old-timer in the suicide loss survivor world. But I know some level of hurt will always be there, even as they find ways to honor lost loved ones and stitch their own lives back together. Understanding, acceptance, processing this grief … all are bits of a puzzle never to be completely worked, a mystery that changes lives forever. Though these words were in print, I heard the despair as one parent asked, “Why are there so many 19-year-old sons dying by suicide?” By now, it is common knowledge that the epidemic is growing and has been for quite a while. The current pandemic and its effects on jobs and the economy have added to the toll worldwide. For young children, teens, and adults of every age, there are no barriers to suicide, no 100-percent prevention methods. Love cannot stop a person from taking his or her life. Even constant vigilance can’t prevent such tragedies. For all the work done in the prevention area — which is so very important — no economic class or race is immune to suicide. Little is known about survivors left behind, though that is beginning to change as survivors themselves speak out. Suicide is now a public health problem as well as a mental health problem. What do we need to do to break this cycle? Suicide isolates. It generates fear. A millennia of myths and disinformation have shrouded everything about suicide in a cloak of secrecy. So, the first and most important thing we can do is tear that cloak away and find out what is true and what is false. The second most important thing to do is to share the truths we find with others, especially younger generations whose life experience and knowledge base may not be as developed on the issue. Research and education can only go so far in changing how suicide is viewed. And the challenge is great as can be proven by sharp division over something as simple as the infection-prevention method of wearing masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. If people can be so divided by today’s spread of myths and disinformation related to the pandemic, what hope is there for increased understanding of suicide and its aftereffects? Hope comes in many forms. Here are a few. Don’t turn away. Find out what might help survivors after a suicide and implement that. Community education programs guided by mental health centers or local mental health professionals need to set up in every area, large and small. The resources already present need to receive support and funding to help get their materials and opportunities out to communities. Spread the truth. Materials about suicide prevention and suicide loss aftercare are available and should be explained to every outlet that deals with possible suicide victims. Fire departments, law enforcement, EMS units, hospitals, local counselors and mental/behavioral health centers, doctors, civic organizations, food banks and other relief organizations. Educate your local news outlets as well. Well-written news stories do not sensationalize suicide, but they can offer hope and resources that actually prevent suicide contagion and clusters. Do what you can. When a suicide occurs in your community, do something. Coordinate with churches or relief groups to send a representative to the family. Bring a “care kit” containing information about local and online support, a fact sheet about suicide, a book about surviving this kind of loss, and other items that might provide care in the first days and weeks post loss. Even a case of bottled water and encouragement to stay hydrated can help. Invite speakers. Ask people with related experience to present material and answer questions in schools, churches, places of employment and other locations. From college campuses to fall festivals, reaching people is important. Saving lives begins and ends with you. View the full article
  21. Admin

    Self-Care to Lower Anxiety

    In today’s world, self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Although we may not be able to control what is happening outside of us, we can take steps each day to stay grounded and connected to our center. If you are looking for some at-home self-care practices to help you lower anxiety, alleviate stress, and feel calmer on a day-to-day basis, you’ve come to the right place. The practices below will help to anchor you in the present moment, quiet your fears, and calm a spiraling mind. Implement these practices on a regular basis to see lasting effects in your life. However, with this being said, if you are currently experiencing heightened anxiety or feel hopeless and overwhelmed, please seek the help of a mental health professional. Together, the two of you can work together to determine the next best steps for treatment. 8 Ways to Calm Anxiety with Self-Care Connect to breath. First and foremost, when a surge of anxiety hits, take a timeout and breathe. Deep breaths in our bodies signal to our minds that we are safe, lessening the stress “fight or flight” hormone called cortisol which increases heart rate and raises blood pressure. Silence your phone, sit or lie down, and take ten long, deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Move your body. Whenever you are feeling anxious, try going for a brisk 20-minute walk or turning on music and dancing around the house. Exercise calms us down and boosts our mood, making it a double whammy for combating anxiety. The key? Making it a consistent routine. Aim for at least three to four 20-minute movements sessions per week and build from there. Feed yourself well. What we eat has a dramatic effect on how we feel. Emphasize whole, minimally processed foods, including fresh fruits and berries, starchy vegetables and leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes, whole grains, and high-quality animal proteins. Eat to fuel yourself and pay attention to the way you feel after meals. Steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and highly processed foods, all of which can increase anxiety and contribute to emotional highs and lows. Spend time in nature. Nature is a natural antidote for anxiety. The sound of flowing water, the colors of a sunset, and the busy hum of bees and insects are all things that calm our nervous system and consequently increase our mental health and well-being. Make it a point to spend as much time in nature as possible, away from traffic, cell phone notifications, financial stress, and emails, all of which can induce feelings of heightened anxiety. Focus on sleep. Sleep is one of the key building blocks to health and happiness and adults need at least eight hours of high-quality sleep per night. Unfortunately, most of us are not getting anywhere close to that amount. A few ways to encourage healthy sleep are 1) develop a nighttime routine, 2) turn off screens at least one hour before bed, 3) keep electronics and other stressors out of the bedroom, and 4) turn the temperature in your bedroom down at night. Try journaling. Longhand freewriting is a great way to process thoughts and fears that are creating anxiety. Experiment with taking time in the morning to journal before the start of the day. If there is a particular situation, person, or event that is causing anxiety, try writing about it to sort through what you are feeling. Oftentimes we don’t know the root cause of something until we look at it from many angles. Develop a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is simply the practice of returning to the present moment and observing what is taking place without judgment. Because anxiety occurs when we worry about the future and mindfulness anchors us in the present moment, it is a great practice for lowering anxiety. Morning meditation, gratitude, and breathwork are all great ways to develop a mindfulness practice. If you need help getting started, a quick internet search will give you more YouTube videos, podcasts, and books on mindfulness and mediation than you will know what to do with. Let laughter be thy medicine. Laughter is one of the most useful yet underrated natural anxiety treatments that exist. If you are able, take a step back from your life from time to time to observe everything that is happening. Then, allow yourself to laugh about it all. Laughter can actually trigger physical and emotional changes within the body, so laugh at yourself, laugh with yourself, laugh with a friend, laugh with a pet, laugh alone. Laugh as much as possible to give yourself a natural relief from anxiety. View the full article
  22. If you had a devastating illness and were given one year to live, what would you do? No question there would be grief and plenty of important decisions to make. If it didn’t debilitate you completely, what would you do with your time? Where would you focus your attention and energy? Would you be willing to spend more time with your loved ones despite the pain that shows up? Would you be doing activities that you’ve enjoyed in life or would you stay home lamenting what life would’ve been if you didn’t have this affliction? As a mortal being we are guaranteed physical, mental and emotional pain. The prospect of getting away from pain is a fantasy, and we all know it. Yet, when we are in the middle of adversity, we can easily forget. Our nature is to seek comfort, and the human mind is adept at providing infinite solutions to dissuade the pain. This can happen when you struggle with intrusive thoughts. Your tendency may be to control them. You may try to ignore them. Sometimes you may try to replace, fight or push the thoughts away. After incessantly trying, you may resign yourself to being a victim to what your thoughts say and succumb to compulsions to alleviate your emotional and mental pain. You may have at some point even wished or prayed to trade your OCD for a physical debilitating illness. No question OCD is torturing, and it can get in the way of living the kind of life you want. Just like you would want to spend your precious time doing what matters with those you care most about, if you had a fatal disease, would you consider a similar stance with the pain that OCD brings into your life? Your OCD mind may advise you to wait for those internal private events (i.e., thoughts, emotions, and sensations) to abate so you can enjoy life. The advice would make sense if you were dealing with external situations, “Wait until you’ve gotten a job to purchase a car!” “Wait till you’ve earned enough money to put a down payment on a new house!” The truth is that you cannot treat internal private experiences as if they were external ones. “But why can’t that invasive thought just vanish?” you may ask. If you aren’t willing to have it, you will. In order to not think about it you have to think about it, don’t you?* Will you acknowledge the thoughts and carry on with life instead of trying to control them? This is not easy of course, but you can start with the following practice exercise. The Sticky Note On a 3 x 3 sticky note, write down three of the intrusive thoughts you wish you didn’t have. This may be difficult. However, the alternative is to have them front and center and let them get in the way of your life because you keep pushing them away. After writing your thoughts, read them and consider how long they have been showing up in your mind? How old are these stories? Are they not old news? Sometimes new thoughts will show up, and soon enough they’ll become old and the cycle will continue. Would you be willing to place the sticky note containing your intrusive thoughts in one of your pants or shirt pockets, purse, backpack or wallet? Would you be willing to carry the note with you everywhere you go? Then, when the intrusive thought shows up, can you acknowledge it, and remember how long this thought has been reoccurring? “Yes, this is the same old story.” Then decide to “own” the thought each time it pops up and genuinely thank your mind. “Yeah, I’ve got that thought in my pocket. Thanks Mind!” Pull out the note and read it, then place it back. Own your thoughts! Carry them in your pocket. Don’t wait until they are gone. Start focusing on what and who matters most despite the emotional pain. Your best life is waiting for you! Source *Steven C. Hayes, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2005. View the full article
  23. Phobiasupportforum

    What to Do with Intrusive Thoughts?

    If you had a devastating illness and were given one year to live, what would you do? No question there would be grief and plenty of important decisions to make. If it didn’t debilitate you completely, what would you do with your time? Where would you focus your attention and energy? Would you be willing to spend more time with your loved ones despite the pain that shows up? Would you be doing activities that you’ve enjoyed in life or would you stay home lamenting what life would’ve been if you didn’t have this affliction? As a mortal being we are guaranteed physical, mental and emotional pain. The prospect of getting away from pain is a fantasy, and we all know it. Yet, when we are in the middle of adversity, we can easily forget. Our nature is to seek comfort, and the human mind is adept at providing infinite solutions to dissuade the pain. This can happen when you struggle with intrusive thoughts. Your tendency may be to control them. You may try to ignore them. Sometimes you may try to replace, fight or push the thoughts away. After incessantly trying, you may resign yourself to being a victim to what your thoughts say and succumb to compulsions to alleviate your emotional and mental pain. You may have at some point even wished or prayed to trade your OCD for a physical debilitating illness. No question OCD is torturing, and it can get in the way of living the kind of life you want. Just like you would want to spend your precious time doing what matters with those you care most about, if you had a fatal disease, would you consider a similar stance with the pain that OCD brings into your life? Your OCD mind may advise you to wait for those internal private events (i.e., thoughts, emotions, and sensations) to abate so you can enjoy life. The advice would make sense if you were dealing with external situations, “Wait until you’ve gotten a job to purchase a car!” “Wait till you’ve earned enough money to put a down payment on a new house!” The truth is that you cannot treat internal private experiences as if they were external ones. “But why can’t that invasive thought just vanish?” you may ask. If you aren’t willing to have it, you will. In order to not think about it you have to think about it, don’t you?* Will you acknowledge the thoughts and carry on with life instead of trying to control them? This is not easy of course, but you can start with the following practice exercise. The Sticky Note On a 3 x 3 sticky note, write down three of the intrusive thoughts you wish you didn’t have. This may be difficult. However, the alternative is to have them front and center and let them get in the way of your life because you keep pushing them away. After writing your thoughts, read them and consider how long they have been showing up in your mind? How old are these stories? Are they not old news? Sometimes new thoughts will show up, and soon enough they’ll become old and the cycle will continue. Would you be willing to place the sticky note containing your intrusive thoughts in one of your pants or shirt pockets, purse, backpack or wallet? Would you be willing to carry the note with you everywhere you go? Then, when the intrusive thought shows up, can you acknowledge it, and remember how long this thought has been reoccurring? “Yes, this is the same old story.” Then decide to “own” the thought each time it pops up and genuinely thank your mind. “Yeah, I’ve got that thought in my pocket. Thanks Mind!” Pull out the note and read it, then place it back. Own your thoughts! Carry them in your pocket. Don’t wait until they are gone. Start focusing on what and who matters most despite the emotional pain. Your best life is waiting for you! Source *Steven C. Hayes, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2005. View the full article
  24. Distress is a culmination of an uncomfortable storm of emotions, judgments, resistance, and physical sensations. Depending on a person’s specific triggers, coping skills, brain, and self-understanding, the reaction to distress can range from mild and controlled, to an intense experience of dysregulation and trauma. Triggers of distress come in all shapes and sizes. It can be personal or global, such as this pandemic. Currently, the pandemic is a universal trigger poking and scratching at old wounds, especially experiences that left us feeling powerless and helpless — and it is creating new ones. I’ve written this step-by-step survival guide. First and foremost, you must understand yourself well. Which leads us into Step 1: 1. Increase your self-knowledge & self-awareness. Log your traits, strengths and struggles, interests, and values. Write the emotions hardest for you to regulate (common ones: anger, anxiety, helplessness), and then triggers for each of those emotions. It helps to recount the steps before the ultimate distress hit, and to be as specific as possible. For example: I was on the internet, felt powerless -> the articles contain a lot of uncertainty, so I kept reading -> felt powerless and confused -> the loss of control feeling hit my “landmine” of when I was once in a traumatic situation I had no control over -> panic attack, then lashed out at my child for not cleaning his room *vulnerability factors: tired, hungry, overwhelmed, so it was easier for me to react and perceive it as more upsetting than it was. This step elevates the pause in between trigger and your response — the ultimate power is in the pause. You cannot change what you do not know, or what you do not accept is a struggle. Which brings you to the next step. 2. Radical Acceptance. For anyone who knows about Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), you know how useful this tool is. What radical acceptance tells us is we must acknowledge reality. As Paulo Coelho said, “The challenge will not wait.” Rejecting reality is preventing a solution. Note your rejection phrases. Common ones are: “I hate this.” “This sucks.” “I can’t stand this.” “I cannot handle this.” “Why is this happening?” Resisting reality is a fight you will never win. We must accept we are living through a pandemic; we must accept what we can do, like using safety measures for the protection of ourselves, and for the protection of others. Acceptance is not comfortable. It is often an event we will still interpret as “bad.” And that’s the point — radical acceptance is not about suddenly believing it’s okay. It’s about wholly acknowledging it exists so you can surrender, and focus on what you can control, what you can do to move forward. 3. Distress Tolerance Pandemic-induced distress causes an array of emotions, even within one moment. Sadness, frustration, fear, depression, loneliness, powerlessness, to peace within the permitted pause of “normal routine”, to joy in newfound hobbies and skills to master, gratitude for all we have and want to have return. But — what are emotions? Emotions are a set of sensations and chemical shifts, within our brains and bodies. The “sad” category lowers our physiological arousal; it is often why we feel slumped and sloth-like when we shift into them. The “anger” and “anxious” categories produce a higher arousal state. Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, tension grips. Both are highly uncomfortable states to sit with but become easier to tolerate with practice. Therefore: 4. Sit with Emotions. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. A nice mindfulness practice I teach is labeling the emotional experience. First, close your eyes. Locate where the emotion is in your body (might be one spot or several). What color would it be? Shape? Air, liquid, hollow, or solid? Texture? What would it sound like? What would it smell like? What would it taste like? Enlist your senses to produce a “known” to better understand and sit with the emotion without judging it. You might notice your breathing slowed down on its own, your body shifts into a quieter hum, and your emotional intensity has lowered. The brain is soothed by labels, as well as re-centering with your senses as your guide. Once the distress has quieted down, bring in some logic with step 5. 5. Check the Facts. This counters cognitive distortions such as magnifying a problem, only focusing on the worst-case scenario, and/or emotional reasoning (i.e. I feel anxious therefore something must be wrong, and it is the worst thing I can imagine). When we are not gathering information and using our reasoning alongside validating our emotions, our imagination can take us into horrible corners of our mind. Checking the facts allows us to step back, gain objectivity, and see what’s at play to let go, and what’s at play to solve. Answer the “what-ifs.” Give your brain a “known” to survive the “unknown.” After answering, remind yourself of the “what IS” — the facts without assigning your opinion. 6. Wrap it up with self-compassion. Our confidence wanes, our strengths and use of skills fluctuate, and our self-esteem and self-worth can take a hit. But self-compassion is a tool that can remain constant. Let yourself say, “This is normal. This distress is allowed. It makes sense that a pandemic would rise my levels of vulnerability. I will be extra special kind to myself during this time, and through it all.” We Are All Going Through This Together The pandemic has removed our security of the future. Boost your mindfulness skills, add to your healthy coping skills toolkit, maintain little goals you can look forward to, and cultivate self-compassion. View the full article
  25. BehaVR, a leading innovator of virtual reality digital wellness and digital therapeutics experiences, today announced that it has begun a new partnership aimed at leveraging virtual reality experiences to address critical unmet needs in social anxiety disorder, an underreported and undertreated mental health condition. View the full article
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