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  1. You only need to spend 10 minutes in a supermarket these days before noticing that half of the items seem to be marketed as “gluten-free.” Even raisins and nectarines are labeled that way, as if they ever contained gluten in the first place. Is it a fad much like the “fat-free” hype of the ’80s? Maybe. But based on my own experience eliminating gluten from my diet, and the stories of people who struggle with chronic depression that I’ve read in the online forums I participate in, I believe the stuff can be toxic to your mood, especially if you have a sensitivity to it. While only 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease (where eating gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the intestines and keeps nutrients from being properly absorbed), many more may be living with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. For these folks, consuming even a small amount of gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) causes digestive problems, drops in energy, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. “[Gluten and dairy] are the main allergens and foods that cause bad brain reactions,” writes Mark Hyman, MD, in his best-seller The Ultramind Solution. “Stopping these foods can be life-changing for the majority with brain and mood problems.” Gluten and Depression A small study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in May 2014 demonstrated the psychological effects of gluten on people with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In this study, 22 participants ate a gluten-free diet low in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) for a three-day baseline period, and then received one of three dietary challenges (supplemented with gluten, whey, or placebo) for three days, followed by a three-day minimum washout period before starting the next diet. Researchers assessed the participants at the end of the study using a psychological tool called the Spielberger State-Trait Personality Inventory (STPI). People in the study who consumed gluten had higher overall STPI depression scores compared to those on the placebo diet. The high correlation between celiac disease and depression is also telling in regards to gluten’s effects on mood. One study published in 1998 in Psychiatric Quarterly determined that about one-third of those with celiac disease also have depression. Another study published in April 2007 in the Journal of Affective Disorders evaluated approximately 14,000 people with celiac disease and found that they had an 80 percent higher risk of depression. Swedish researchers reported in August 2011 in Digestive and Liver Disease that the risk of suicide was moderately higher in people with celiac disease. Gluten and Schizophrenia The first research into how gluten impacts the brain and could lead to psychiatric problems occurred more than 60 years ago with groups of schizophrenic patients. In a study published in January 1966 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers calculated the numbers of women admitted to mental hospitals in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and the United States from 1936 to 1945, and the consumption of wheat and rye during the same period. They found a significant positive correlation between the increase in average annual admissions for schizophrenia in each country and the increase in consumption of wheat or wheat and rye. The reverse was also true; as gluten grain rations decreased so did the rate of first-time admission to psychiatric institutions. There is an increasing volume of research associating gluten consumption to schizophrenia, such as the study published in September 2013 in the The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry that found elevated levels of antibodies to the gluten protein gliadin in people with schizophrenia. Researchers compared the anti-gliadin antibodies of 950 adults with schizophrenia to those of 1,000 healthy controls. The odds of having anti-gliadin antibodies was 2.13 times higher in schizophrenics, indicating the possibility of an adverse reaction to wheat proteins among this population. In a study published in January 2011 in Schizophrenia Bulletin, researchers discovered that people with schizophrenia have higher than expected antibodies related to celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. How Gluten Affects the Brain So what is the link between gluten and psychiatric disorders? How might wheat impair the brain? That’s what I find most fascinating. In 1979, Christine Zioudrou, PhD, and her colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health found that gluten contains polypeptides, or protein fragments, that are able to bind to morphine receptors in the brain — the same receptors that the polypeptides in opiate drugs bind to. They dubbed them “exorphins,” short for exogenous morphine-like compounds, distinguishing them from the endorphins (also morphine-like compounds) that we produce internally and occur, say, during a runner’s high. These receptor sites impact the degree of pleasure and reward we feel and, because of the withdrawal effect, alter brain chemistry. They can have a distinct effect on mood. According to William Davis, MD, author of Wheat Belly, researchers speculate that exorphins might be the active factors in wheat that caused the deterioration of schizophrenic symptoms in a famous study led by F. Curtis Dohan, MD, during his time at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. “Wheat, in fact, nearly stands alone as a food with potent central nervous system effects,” Dr. Davis writes. “Outside of intoxicants such as ethanol (like that in your favorite merlot or chardonnay), wheat is one of the few foods that can alter behavior, induce pleasurable effects, and generate a withdrawal syndrome upon its removal.” The Gut-Brain Connection In people with celiac disease, gluten causes intestinal dysbiosis, a condition in which the gut bacteria are out of balance. As I’ve written about before, gut bacteria can certainly impact mood — so much that our gut is sometimes dubbed our second brain. In some people, gluten could also erode the gut lining when certain foods enter our bloodstream: Our immune system, responding to an attack by a foreign object, sends an SOS message through our nervous system, which can generate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Basically, gluten triggers inflammation, and the response to that inflammation can affect different organs and tissues, all of which impact mood. A damaged intestinal wall also means that we are not properly absorbing essential nutrients, especially those critical to mood, like zinc, the B vitamins, and vitamin D. Finally, if our intestines are unhealthy, that means we’re not manufacturing as much serotonin, since 80 to 90 percent of serotonin is produced in our gut nerve cells. Gluten could also limit the production of tryptophan, an amino acid that is the precursor of serotonin. I eliminated gluten from my diet two-and-a-half years ago and noticed a substantial improvement in my mood — but it didn’t happen instantly. It took as long as nine months to reap all the benefits. Now that I’m gluten-free, I’ve become much more sensitive to it and can feel its effects almost immediately: anxiety, brain fog, and death thoughts. Fad or no fad, I’m a believer in gluten-free! Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health. View the full article
  2. One of Rachel Dubrow’s clients was anxious about a big presentation at work. It wasn’t because she was worried about speaking in front of her boss and colleagues. It wasn’t because she was worried about doing a good job. She was afraid that she’d be judged for not having straight teeth. (Instead of discussing public speaking anxiety, she and Dubrow explored her self-image and others’ perceptions.) Another client of Dubrow’s insisted on completing all his work before leaving the office, which meant that he stayed late. Every single day. He wanted his performance reviews to exceed expectations. This stemmed “from his childhood when his parents told him that in order to be happy, he needed to clean his room, put away his toys, do his laundry, and do the dishes just like they did before bed each night,” said Dubrow, LCSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in helping people who feel buried under ongoing anxiety, stress, relationship issues and depression. Psychotherapist Lila Braida, LMFT, was seeing a client who was having anxiety about keeping her dog safe in the yard. Even though she knew her fear was unfounded, she didn’t feel any better. After digging deeper, she and Braida identified the root of her anxiety: “She was preparing to pursue a second pregnancy after life-threatening health issues had come up during her first,” said Braida, who practices holistic counseling psychology in Napa, Calif. “She had not had any sense of control over that situation, and it became clear that staying hyper-vigilant over her dog’s health was a way for her to maintain at least a small area of safety and control in her household.” With other clients, Braida also has witnessed how much of their social anxiety stems from their own sense of self. “Our ideas of ourselves as ‘overbearing,’ or ‘not good enough,’ can lead to an experience of social disconnect, where we aren’t comfortable being ourselves in relation to someone, unless we are compensating for our perceived shortcomings.” Maybe we compensate by going out of our way to seem non-confrontational (because we fear that others will think we’re too much). Maybe we compensate by people pleasing or caring for others (because we think people won’t accept us if we don’t; a lesson we learned in our childhoods). “That constant effort to be different from who we naturally are leads to stress and anxiety in social settings,” Braida said. “[A]nd it’s easy to see how someone could begin avoiding those settings over time when they associate them with feelings of stress.” Braida also has seen clients experience tremendous anxiety over keeping their homes spotless or proving themselves at work—because they were in the midst of redefining their identity. Because they’ve become new parents or recently divorced or experienced some other major change in their lives, shaking up their status quo. Our anxiety often has a root cause. Maybe you get anxious at work because you don’t trust yourself to excel, to succeed. Maybe you get anxious over final exams because you don’t think you’re capable. You don’t believe in yourself. Maybe you grew up in a home where independence was lauded and expected, so asking for help—at home or at work—terrifies you. So you try to do it all—even when you’re crumbling. “Finding the root cause of anxiety is tricky because it can creep up on us,” Dubrow said. “We might start feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, unable to focus, or not able to fall asleep at night because we are thinking about so many things.” This leads us to focus on the physical symptoms and sensations of anxiety and to overlook the psychological ones, to not explore any further. It can lead us to focus on techniques to reduce our anxiety—deep breathing, meditation, yoga—without really understanding what’s going on, without addressing the real issue. To dig deeper, Dubrow suggested asking ourselves these questions: “How long has it been since I felt differently than I do now? What has changed in my life over the last 3 months, 6 months, or year? Are there other times in my life, past or present, where I felt the same way but the situation was different? If yes, what are they and is there a common thread?” When she starts feeling anxious, Braida also pauses and turns inward. “…I compassionately check in with my emotional state.” She gently asks herself: Why am I so freaked out? What is this really about? And she listens for the answer—without judging herself. Anxiety is complicated. There may be layers upon layers to unpack. There may be surprising causes—like Dubrow’s client and her insecurity about her teeth, like Braida’s client and her hunger for control where it didn’t exist. Seeing a therapist is always a good idea—and so is journaling about your anxiety. So is compassionately exploring what lies beneath the shakiness, sweaty palms, tight shoulders and butterfly-filled stomach. Because getting to the root can help us to genuinely diminish the anxiety—and better understand ourselves. View the full article
  3. “Do you not give a damn about your father?” my Dad growled into the phone. The truth is I cared — probably too much. And for my own health and well-being, I had to step back from my Dad’s snark-filled comments and Mt. Vesuvius rage. Family — or at least the idealized notion of family — is sacrosanct to me. I cherish my relationships with my beloved aunties and uncles. When they aren’t teasing me for the latest Mattism (losing my keys, wallet, or mind), they are prodding me about my latest love interest or travel escapade. And as for my late mother, she was equal parts mentor and matriarch. From joyfully recalling the day’s events to lunching with her and her tennis girlfriends to Thanksgiving bowl-a-thons, I smile — ruefully — at the fond memories. There is a tinge of sadness too as I recall our family’s joyfulness. More than molding me, my mother moderated — with her trademark compassion and wit — my father’s sharper edges. More professional than personable, my father would never be in the running for Mr. Congeniality. But with my mother’s not-so-subtle influence, he concealed his gruff demeanor with an amicable, if not warm, countenance. How times have changed. Without my mother’s softening influence, my father’s shrillness has spilled out. Never particularly warm or engaging, his biting commentary (“If you really cared about your father”) now imbues our conversations. As his eldest son, I vacillate between compassion and disdain toward him. Yes, I am sympathetic that your wife of 37 years passed away. I want to help. Why are you hurling mean-spirited invectives toward me? I don’t understand. While the debate rages on, compassion would normally eke out a narrow victory — and I would endure his caustic comments and morose self-pity. Until it didn’t. After four plus years, I pulled away — more for my own self-preservation. After another dispiriting conversation, I would rhetorically ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” During each father-son conversation, anxiety would ensnare me as Dad collected and filed his weekly grievances: my brothers, aunts and uncles, and me. While I wanted to support him, the emotional toll was too exacting: my own health and well-being. And so I went cold turkey. While I still cling to my idealized family hovering around the kitchen table or, yes, commemorating the latest Thanksgiving bowl-a-thon, I now understand that you create your own family. For some, that will include a doting father; for others, that will consist of beloved aunties and uncles. And, perhaps for you, that will include lifelong friends spanning your recess through university days. Your family doesn’t have to share your last name; it is more important that they share a sense of love and appreciation for you. Pulling away from my father’s domineering ways, I have luckily found that with my beloved aunties and uncles. You can too — even if takes screening one family member’s call(s) for another. View the full article
  4. Who’s ready to learn more about why some of us are likely to spend more money on certain items, how cannabis could increase violent behavior, a new documentary about anxiety and depression, and more? You sweet readers, I hope! Why Friday the 13th Is Considered to Be Bad Luck: Yesterday was Friday the 13th (well, depending on when you read this), and several psychologists and other scientists weigh in on why many of us don’t like the number 13 (also known as triskaidekaphobia) and where Friday comes into play. Michael Phelps Talks Anxiety In ‘Angst,’ A New Mental Health Doc: After wrangling his own anxiety and depression, five-time Olympian Michael Phelps became an advocate for mental health awareness. Now he’s appearing in a Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety, a new documentary that focuses on children and young adults who talk about their experiences with anxiety. The Psychology Behind Spending Big: You might not be surprised to find that people tend to be attracted to more expensive items that they could actually purchase for far less because they believe that high price tag just must mean better quality. However, you might be surprised to know that it’s more than just “all in our heads”; it’s actually in our brains, too. Example? One study not only recorded people giving high ratings to wine they were told was more expensive; it also showed via functional magnetic resonance imaging of their brains that they actually enjoyed drinking the expensive wine more. Psychiatrists Can’t Stop Mass Killers [New York Times Opinion Piece by Dr. Richard A. Friedman]: After a mass shooting, there are two social matters you can bet your life savings will pop up: gun control and mental health reform. On the matter of mental health reform, Dr. Friedman — a professor of clinical psychiatry — says psychiatrists can’t prevent mass murderers for many reasons, not least of which many of them avoid the mental health system altogether. Cannabis Consumption Increases Violent Behavior in Young People in Psychiatric Care: Am I the only one getting whiplash from the contradictory research reports involving cannabis? A new study out of the University of Montreal involving more than 1,000 patients between 18 and 40 years old with mental illnesses and who have been seen five times during a one-year period after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital “demonstrates that sustained used of cannabis is associated with an increase in violent behavior in young people” and that the association between continuous cannabis use and violence is stronger than the association between alcohol and/or cocaine use and violence. Gabe Howard: Why We Should Talk About Mental Health At Work: Last but not least, Psych Central’s very own Gabe Howard — host of The Psych Central Show — was recently interviewed by Dan Schawbel of Forbes regarding how mental health conversations have changed, how employers and employees are handing mental health discussions in the workplace, his advise to human resource workers, and more. View the full article
  5. I feel like a massive hypocrite writing this piece, because substantial messes are found in virtually every square foot of my home. In fact, the last time I broached the topic of clutter in a blog, I posted a photo of my book piles and nut collection and was immediately contacted by a hoarding show to be “fixed” by an expert. Even though I fail miserably at decluttering my home, I do know it’s an important piece of mental health — that our environments affect us more than we’d like to believe. And it’s not even the Post-its all over your desk, the plastic dog toys strewn about the floor, or the homework on the table. It can be the 99 files on your computer desktop, or the 28,000 emails you haven’t deleted. In our modern society, when we get lambasted with information — dozens of pieces of junk mail in our physical mailbox and more in our email, not to mention social media. It’s an monstrous task to stay on top of the clutter, and most of us don’t. Refrigerators: Clutter Magnets UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) studied the homes of 32 Los Angeles families over four years (2001 to 2005) and published their findings in the book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century. The families were dual-income, middle-class households with school-age children and represented a wide range of occupations and ethnic groups. But the results generated from almost 20,000 photos, 47 hours of family-narrated home video tours, and 1,540 hours of videotaped family interviews made clear one thing that virtually every middle-class American home has in common: lots of stuff. Take the refrigerator. The typical refrigerator in the study held 52 objects; the most crowded displayed 166 different objects (about half of the number of magnets on ours). In these homes, stuff covered as much as 90 percent of the fridge. According to a UCLA Magazine article explaining the study, “The Clutter Culture,” researchers noticed a correlation between the number of objects families put on the fridge and the rest of the stuff in their homes. Clutter Leads to Distress “The American workplace is intense and demanding. When we come home, we want material rewards,” says Elinor Ochs, director of CELF and a linguistic anthropologist. But the group’s study found that the bigger the mess, the more stress — at least for the moms interviewed. Two of the CELF team’s psychologists, Darby Saxbe, PhD, and Rena Repetti, PhD, measured levels of cortisol in study participants’ saliva. The researchers found that higher cortisol levels were more likely in moms who used words like “mess” and “very chaotic” to describe their homes, and who had higher “stressful home scores.” Lower cortisol levels were more likely in moms who had higher “restorative home scores.” In a report on their findings in the January 2010 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Drs. Saxbe and Repetti wrote: These results held after controlling for marital satisfaction and neuroticism. Women with higher stressful home scores had increased depressed mood over the course of the day, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had decreased depressed mood over the day. The Hoarding Brain In 2012, David Tolin, PhD, and his Yale School of Medicine research team recruited three groups of people — those with hoarding disorders, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and folks without any type of hoarding or OCD issue — to bring in a pile of junk mail from home. The pieces of mail were photographed, as were pieces of mail supplied by the lab. Researchers had the participants lie in an MRI machine while viewing the photos and make a decision about which items should be kept or shredded. Compared with the control and OCD groups, the people with hoarding disorders showed abnormally low brain activity in the insula (within the cerebral cortex) and the anterior cingulate cortex when they reviewed the lab mail. But the same brain regions lit up with hyperactivity when these people assessed their own possessions. These are the same regions of the brain associated with pain, both physical and psychological. The more emotional attachment to an object, the greater the pain. The results of the study were published in the August 2012 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. As the abstract says, the people with hoarding disorders were the ones who experienced “not just right” feelings. In order to avert more anxiety or satiate their growing unease, they hold on to stuff. Dr. Tolin believes that hoarding bears more relation to autism and anxiety than to OCD, even though hoarding has long been considered a type of OCD. “[Hoarding] isn’t a house problem,” Tolin was quoted as saying in Tara Parker-Pope’s blog in The New York Times. “It’s a person problem. The person needs to fundamentally change their behavior.” How to Clear the Clutter Again, I do not feel equipped to give advice here when I’m tripping over piles of books on the floor of my bedroom. But I like the behavioral tips offered by Dr. Gerald Nestadt, director of the Johns Hopkins OCD clinic, in an issue of The Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin: Make immediate decisions about mail and newspapers. Go through mail and newspapers on the day you receive them and throw away unwanted materials immediately. Don’t leave anything to be decided on later. Think twice about what you allow into your home. Wait a couple of days after seeing a new item before you buy it. And when you do purchase something new, discard another item you own to make room for it. Set aside 15 minutes a day to declutter. Start small — with a table, perhaps, or a chair — rather than tackling the entire, overwhelming house at once. If you start to feel anxious, take a break and do some deep breathing or relaxation exercises. Dispose of anything you have not used in a year. That means old clothes, broken items, and craft projects you’ll never finish. Remind yourself that many items are easily replaceable if you need them later. Follow the OHIO rule: Only Handle It Once. If you pick something up, make a decision then and there about it, and either put it where it belongs or discard it. Don’t fall into the trap of moving things from one pile to another again and again. Ask for help if you can’t do it on your own. If you feel these strategies are impossible to carry out and you cannot cope with the problem on your own, seek out a mental health professional. Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health. View the full article
  6. “Oh, the weather today was beautiful. Do want to talk about the meaning of life?” I ask. While I facetiously save meaning of life questions for the second date (first date conversations generally revolve around morality tropes and ethical dilemmas — I kid), I abhor small talk. Small talk is the conversational equivalent of a McDonald’s Happy Meal: plastic and headache-inducing. While I can smile along at small talk, my mind is jumping to more far-concerns concerns, “Why are we talking about Beyonce’s latest outfit when the refugee crisis is blotting Europe or the Republican health care plan threatens the Affordable Care Act? Or my mental health issues are strangle-holding me into submission?” I consider myself a deep, contemplative person. And while I can and do feign interest in the latest reality TV hit or Beyonce’s sultry outfit (or non-outfit), I would much prefer to talk about substantives issue: politics, philosophy, or psychology. Sorry (but not really). For years, I wondered if this insatiable need for deep, meaningful conversations warranted my own dating intervention. “Matt, practice asking her about her pets. Women love talking about their dogs, not Darfur,” my mind would remind me before the latest date (debacle). And before I would spend a couple hours feigning interest in a female’s best friend. But, fortunately, I don’t have to fake it until I make it — or until the check finally arrives. And neither do you. Happiness and connection are rooted in deep, meaningful conversations. And with apologies to my previous dates, not mindless conversation focused on her dog’s designer duds. Sorry (but not really). While small talk is a necessary evil (more evil than necessary — at least in my opinion), researchers have found that substantive conversations are linked to contentment and happiness. According to a Psychological Science journal, the happiest person in its study had twice as many substantive conversations (and only one-third the amount of small talk) as the study’s unhappiest person. For the study’s happiest person, nearly 46% of conversations were substantive. Your next question: Well, Matt, what constitutes a substantive conversation? And my cheeky — and truthful — response: Let’s talk about what constitutes a substantive conversation. In all seriousness, substantive conversations provide meaning and a sense of connection. More than the reflexive “I’m doing fine,” I have a greater understanding of how you are really doing. There is a valuable exchange of information and reciprocal trust undergirding substantive conversations. So for my fellow deep divers, you aren’t strange or odd for craving a meaningful conversation. In fact, you may be happier doing so — and much happier than awkwardly smiling/gritting your teeth as your date discusses Fido’s formalwear. Woof (even if her dog is delightful). View the full article
  7. We often poke fun at our fears, but for many people, fear gets in the way of well-being and compromises quality of life. An estimated 8.7 percent of Americans, or 19.2 million people, suffer from a specific phobia like glossophobia (fear of public speaking) or necrophobia (fear of death). Even if you don’t have a specific phobia, you can probably appreciate that feeling of fear that blows in like a severe storm, interrupting your daily responsibilities and robbing you of your enthusiasm for life. Here are some great insights from entrepreneurs, political leaders, religious figures, philosophers, writers, and luminaries of all kinds that may help you when the black cloud of fear rolls in and tries to take over your life. Courage! “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – President Theodore Roosevelt “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt “Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” – W. Clement Stone, American businessman and philanthropist “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks “What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti, philosopher, speaker, and writer “There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” – André Gide, author and Nobel Prize winner “Ultimately, we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” – Marilyn Ferguson, author, editor, and public speaker “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela “The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.” – Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” – Mary Anne Radmacher, author, artist, and speaker “When you walk to the edge of all the light, you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught to fly.” – Patrick Overton, director of the Front Porch Institute “Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” – Pope John XXIII “Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose.” – Mary Shelley “Leap and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs “Do the next thing.” – Elisabeth Elliot, author and speaker “The only devils in the world are those running in our own hearts. That is where the battle should be fought.” – Mahatma Gandhi “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson “Come to the edge He said. They said We are afraid. Come to the edge He said. They came. He pushed them, and they flew.” – Guillaume Apollinaire, poet, novelist, and literary figure “Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really very frightening.” – Gertrude Stein “Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.” – Bruce Lee “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health. View the full article
  8. Nearly three months ago, I found myself quietly celebrating an anniversary that very few people knew about. I really didn’t want to give it too much attention to be honest. I wanted to avoid triggering thoughts that would take me back to those moments when life wasn’t so great. However, as I sat with my computer I began to remember and I actually smiled. Prior to 2016, I had lived with family members for over 7 years. After being hospitalized for my mental health condition, I was unable to maintain consistent employment, provide for my daughter, or live alone. It was challenging to find the right combination of medication, self-care techniques, social supports, faith guidance, and therapeutic connections that would allow me to regain my self-sufficiency. In addition, I lived in constant fear of failing. I felt as if I had lost so much of myself that I questioned my ability to pull my life back together. How could I work and live on my own? I felt professionally crippled by this disease. I feared rejection by other mental health professionals. I feared being viewed as lacking the capacity to serve others. I doubted myself. I wondered about being triggered, my ability to engage people, and what would happen if anyone found out about my illness. Regardless of how many times I spoke openly about it, the fear that I would be treated differently lingered. In my attempt to move beyond this, I had to learn how to manage my life in spite of my fears. Recovery became an ongoing process of discovering what worked for what situations during any given moment. Moreover, I had to recognize how my condition affected the way I lived. As a former therapist, I experienced assisting others on their wellness journeys. As an individual with lived experience, I needed to obtain the courage to focus on my own. In doing so, I had to redefine my identity within the field of mental health. I discovered that practicing in certain areas of the field no longer suited me. I processed through the shame and embarrassment, then found a healthier way to reconnect to the work I loved. My road to mental wellness also involved developing new social connections. Online communities played a vital role in assisting me in increasing my social interaction. Through various social media platforms, I conversed with women and men across the country. Some individuals managed mental health conditions and some did not. Regardless, I developed relationships that helped me expand my network of people who I could reach out to for support. There were people who never met me who were willing to help walk with me through some of the more challenging moments in life. This became essential during the times I felt like a burden to people closest to me. These opportunities became life lines and assisted me as I regained my strength and made advancements toward self-sufficiency. Fast forward to now, I still navigate through a maze of doctors, medication increases, and therapy appointments. Some days are a real struggle. My mind can race a thousand miles per minute. And I have to be mindful of how much of something is too much all the time. In spite of all this, I manage to get up most days, get dressed, and go to work. Sometimes I have no clue how it gets done, but it gets done. I no longer ask why life chose this path for me. I never found an answer anyway. What I did find was I could do all the things I feared would never happen. In fact, as I type this I am in my apartment… MY APARTMENT! I have resided here for over a year. For the first time since 2009, I am living on my own and self-sufficient. I guess it might not be a big deal for some but for me it meant everything. I made it to the place I wanted to be for so long. I finally made the long journey home. View the full article
  9. Mental health problems are infamously complicated. Although psychologists have a successful guidebook to identify and diagnose mental illness, those manuals are merely suggestions for treatment — and can’t predict exactly how you experience your psychological and emotional well-being. With that in mind, some people experience multiple forms of mental health disorders, often in various degrees. If somebody has several mental health conditions, it’s known as “comorbidity,” and anxiety and depression are the two most related diagnoses. What Is Anxiety? Anxiety is a sense of unease, for instance, worry or concern, which might be mild or severe. Additionally, it is the primary symptom of panic disorder. All of us have feelings of anxiety at some stage in our life. For instance you may feel nervous and worried about taking an exam, having medical testing done, or a job interview. During times such as these, experiencing anxiousness can be perfectly normal. However, many individuals struggle to manage constant worry. Their feelings of anxiety tend to be more frequent and can influence their everyday life. What Is Depression? Feeling depressed generally is a typical response to loss, life challenges, or wounded self-esteem. However, when feelings of extreme sadness, which includes hopelessness and worthlessness, continue for a number of days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your feelings could be something more than sadness. It could possibly be major depressive disorder. Anxiety disorder and depression frequently manifest together. They have similar symptoms which can be hard to tell apart. Either can result in frustration, insomnia, not being able to focus, and worry. Untreated anxiety and panic disorder can raise your potential for more serious conditions. These conditions include depression, drug abuse, and suicide. Anxiety disorder doesn’t just influence emotional well-being. This common disorder could be intense enough to result in or aggravate headaches, gastrointestinal syndromes, abnormal heart rhythms and sleep disorders. The link between depression and anxiety is so powerful that some antidepressants are used to address people who don’t have depression and are alternatively living with anxiety disorders. Anxiety coping strategies are often recommended for people with depression, even when the individual doesn’t suffer from anxiety. Other studies have also revealed that the same neurotransmitters might also lead to both anxiety and depression. Depression can develop due to anxious thoughts. This seems to be particularly true of those with panic disorder, possibly since panic attacks tend to trigger feelings of fear, helplessness, and disaster. Furthermore, those coping with anxiety may not be living the life they had dreamed of and this reinforces feelings of powerlessness or loss which can ultimately lead to depression. Many people who have anxiety and/or depression assume that treatment for these disorders may not be effective — that if you have previously tried therapy or medication without much relief, then nothing can be done for you. But it is simply not true. It may take time and effort, but don’t stop until you find the right treatment. Current studies suggest that treatment should start with addressing depression first. A decrease in depressive symptoms often means a reduction of anxiety symptoms as well. Also, some common and efficient prescription drugs for depression hold the added bonus of decreasing anxiety. To recover, you’ll need to be as relentless, invasive and powerful as the depression and anxiety. You are unique and treatment can be complex, but freedom from depression and anxiety is possible. Do not let your anxiety and/or depression go untreated. If you are experiencing chronic and unexplained feelings of anxiousness, fear, or worry, sadness or suicidal thoughts, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. View the full article
  10. Relationships and mental illness — can it work out? People who struggle with mental health issues might find themselves wondering if they can handle a relationship as well. I know I did. After all, it’s hard to think about being with another person when some days just managing life feels hard. I didn’t date that much in my twenties. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at the age of 19, and I honestly thought that being in a relationship would be too much stress. I had all these worries — what if I wasn’t fun to be with? What if my partner got fed up with my issues and left? What if I wasn’t ready to deal with being in a relationship alongside dealing with my mental health? And worst of all — what if I told someone about my mental health issues and they ran in the opposite direction? There’s such a stigma about mental health that I worried a lot about how my prospective partner might react. I’m nearly 40 now and have been happily married for 15 years. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about balancing a relationship together with mental health issues. Here’s what I’ve learned about relationships and mental illness. They Are Totally Compatible Having a relationship is as possible for you as it is for anyone else! Whether we have mental health issues or not, each person comes with their own “stuff.” A mental health condition doesn’t have to be a barrier to a healthy relationship. Yes, it does take a bit of work, but it’s totally doable. But You Have to Find the Right Person The key to having a good relationship is to find the right person. You’ll need someone who is open minded about mental health and empathic enough to be willing to learn and understand. Someone who shows patience when you are having a rough day. Disclosure Is a Must Keeping your mental health a secret puts immense pressure on you, and that stress will only add to your problems and make your symptoms even worse. To have a successful relationship you need to know you can be open about your issues, even on your worst days. But Pick Your Time Knowing when to disclose is a tough call. On one hand, you probably don’t want to mention it on the first date. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it is very personal. On the other hand, you don’t want to get really invested in the relationship only to find out they can’t handle it. I waited until it was obvious this was more than just a handful of dates, before we made any commitments Know Your Limits Your mental health condition most likely put some limits on what you can do in a day. For me, I know if I get too stressed, my anxiety gets worse. So I have to take things more slowly than some people. Stress might affect you in a completely different way, but be aware when it does. But Don’t Make Your Partner Responsible Ultimately, only you are responsible for your behavior and for managing your mental health. It’s a good idea to make your partner aware of how your condition affects you and it’s absolutely ok to ask them for support — but don’t make them responsible for you. For example, sometimes my depression makes it hard for me to get motivated for a night out, but I don’t stop my husband from going out. My depression is not his problem to solve. A healthy relationship can actually boost your mental health by bringing joy, laughter, and support into your life. If you’ve been worrying about having a relationship because of your mental health, I’d say, why not give it a try? Just be aware of your needs and limits — make sure the relationship is nourishing, not draining, you! View the full article
  11. Even if we see ourselves as advocates for increasing acceptance and understanding for people dealing with mental health issues, most of us are probably unconsciously contributing to mental health stigma. We talk about being “depressed” on gloomy days, or “OCD” about the cleanliness of our homes. We remark that our friend has “PTSD” from a bad work week, or is “paranoid” about germs. Most of us are guilty of having spoken these terms and phrases in everyday conversation. If not, then we’ve definitely heard others use them colloquially. We aren’t being literal, and there’s no real harm, right? Wrong — and the damage we are doing is probably much more significant than we realize. This misappropriation of such terms belittles mental health conditions and frames them in a negative light. And it impairs the ability of all of us, including those actually confronted with mental illness, to discern between critical mental health issues and exaggerated expressions. Before you roll your eyes or claim that this is simply political correctness run amuck, did you realize that 60 percent of the 50 million Americans suffering from mental health issues actually fail to get the help they often desperately need? And that stigma is one of the main barriers holding people back from care? Terms like “anxiety” and “addiction” are real mental health diagnoses affecting 30 million Americans, and they have serious medical ramifications. By loosely using these terms, we dilute the severity of these conditions and contribute to the growing misconception that mental health diagnoses and care do not require specialized training. Such clinical language was developed by mental health experts for the purpose of exacting diagnoses and treatments in the same manner that physical medical terms have been defined. We all know not to assert that our leg is broken without conclusive evidence produced by an X-ray and a medical professional’s diagnosis. Yet, we often fail to think twice before saying we are “depressed.” The truth is that most of us are not capable of performing an X-ray or diagnosing depression. The repeated pattern of people inaccurately issuing self-diagnoses and stigmatizing mental health conditions, even inadvertently, is more than just a hurtful trend. What if the watering down of mental health care terms is actually stopping young people who truly do suffer from mental illness from seeking the treatment? Our careless vocabulary could ultimately be obscuring the path to recovery for those who are suffering. The time is long overdue to redefine mental health and create a new vocabulary surrounding treatment within society. We need to communicate responsibly with each other, and particularly the next generation, about mental health issues. Today, the nation’s most at-risk demographic is young people under the age of 18, and 75 percent of mental health problems are typically identified before the age of 24. Studies have shown that patients are much more likely to improve and continue getting effective treatment, if they begin therapy by that age. We must work to ensure that our youth and young adults understand the true meaning of mental health terms and that they don’t hesitate to seek help if they need it. We also should embrace modern channels and communication methods that can make receiving mental health care, for both young and old alike, as accessible, comfortable and relatable as possible. Many of us have become desensitized to the genuine mental health challenges of today due in part to pop culture’s haphazard use of its terminology. But it is our collective responsibility to pause, and consider steps we all can take, even those of us who are not therapists, to address modern mental health care needs. To help our friends, neighbors and community members receive the mental health care they need, we must first become cognizant of the roadblocks we may be inadvertently throwing in their path. So, the next time we think about using terms like “bipolar,” “anxious,” or “depressed,” let’s take a moment to pause and consider the significant repercussions for mental health stigma. We must choose our words carefully to ensure that we are part of the solution, rather than the problem. View the full article
  12. Take a moment to think about how you felt the last time you caught yourself ruminating and/or stuck in an anxious mode. Perhaps you were stressed about money or the health of a loved one. Maybe you simply felt overwhelmed. Now, take a moment and think about how you felt the last time you became “awe-struck.” Awe often occurs when appreciating the grandeur of nature, connecting with the beauty of art, even viewing an act of generosity toward others. Chances are that when in an anxious state, it was hard to focus on anything else but “what-if” thoughts. Your heart races and you try with all of your might to control both your mind and body. On the other hand, when in a state of awe or wonder, you may have felt a deep pleasure, a sense of wonder, a child-like curiosity. Your heart slows down, and you remain transfixed, gazing at the source of your awe. Most likely, you don’t want to control these positive feelings; rather, you wish for them to last even longer, and you hope to experience them on a more regular basis. In an American Psychological Association article titled “Probing the Depression-Rumination Cycle,” author Bridget Murray Law notes that “rumination can impair thinking and problem-solving, and drive away critical social support.” Law goes on to cite a survey in which it was found that self-described ruminators were four times more likely to develop depression than non-ruminators. Unfortunately, many ruminators get stuck in the trench of depression due to relentless negative self-talk. According to research, ruminators often struggle to find good solutions to hypothetical problems. In other words, people who tend to ruminate and worry, have a harder time making positive decisions due to the depressive cloud of uncertainty and immobilization. On the other hand, awe may actually sharpen decision-making skills, as well as providing an overall sense of connection with something greater than ourselves. The article “How Awe Sharpens Our Brains,” by Michelle Lani Shiota and Greater Good Science Center (which was adapted from Greater Good In Action, a site launched by UC Berkeley) describes a study that included participants who had just relived a personal experience of awe. In this study, participants with other positive emotions — besides awe — such as enthusiasm, amusement, and contentment were easily persuaded by both strong and weak arguments of a fictional proposal. Interestingly, participants in the “awe condition” (those people who had just relived a personal experience of awe) were only persuaded by the strong arguments. It may be, then, that the people who had came from the “awe mind set” may have been able to “read the supposed news article even more carefully, and analyzed it more critically.” I know from personal experience that when I ruminate, it’s difficult to see the larger picture, that my fears and worries highlight the negative while obscuring positive solutions and insight. And in those times when I’m awe-struck, like when I recently viewed the actual “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh at the Modern Museum of Art in New York, I find myself in a meditative state where I feel as if anything is possible. Awe, then not only stimulates wonder and increases gratitude, it may also sharpen our brains in such a way that it may help reduce the negative effects of worry and rumination. I believe, too, that if we seek awe on a continuous basis, it may also reduce anxiety itself. For if we are able to plug into an overall feeling of connectedness and deepening our understanding of the sublime — as the state of awe opens us to — we are more likely to override our anxiety buttons and less likely to fall into the pit of rumination. We do not have to climb a mountaintop to find awe, either. If practiced daily, it may be easier to experience than thought. It may be as simple as taking a break from distractions (such as cell phones) and going for a walk while focusing on the miracle of a bird in flight or a tree that thrives in a small patch of dirt lining a city street. However you seek your awe — whether it is in nature, a museum, or in the joyful giggle of a baby — remember to recognize it. View the full article
  13. Alice had experienced many successes in her youth. She was gifted with athletic skills, intelligence, and an outgoing personality. She qualified for a scholarship in college and graduated with honors from a prestigious program. Alice enjoyed the praise of others, and felt she should be happy but was not. She had developed the habit of comparing herself with others. When she could not keep up with what she believed were others’ expectations, she felt anxious and depressed. She would say, “If I make a mistake, others will judge me, and I will be nothing!” Perfectionism is a topic of interest to many because of the impact it can have in individuals’ lives. There is nothing wrong with having a desire to succeed in life and doing what it takes to accomplish it. The problem is when individuals get stuck in the minutia in order to avoid fears such as self-doubt, impressing others, or failure. It is how you go about your goals and behaviors that make the difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism. If you are not satisfied with the way your life is going because you feel the need to keep up with certain image, you may be experiencing unhealthy perfectionism. Comparison There is nothing wrong with contrasting and comparing. From the time we were kids we learned about opposites, similarities, and phrases such as “which one is not like the other” from books or children’s TV shows. Every item we own, food we eat, job or career we hold is because our amazing mind provides evaluations regarding what may work best for us. Comparison can help us make choices in our external world. However, when it comes to our internal experiences, our mind may provide advice regarding our position in life in relation to that of others, which is not helpful. Joe runs faster than I do. Chloe is more successful than I am. Charlie is smarter than me. The Jones’ children are better behaved than mine. But as you may already have discovered, comparison doesn’t work quite the same in our internal world. It has been said that, “the brain takes the shape of whatever the mind rests upon.” Comparing thoughts may become incessant. The amazing mind tries to come up with solutions that may lead you to the comparison treadmill. Sometimes, individuals report comparison is useful because it makes them work harder. Comparison may work temporarily, but the longer individuals with unhealthy perfectionism try to keep up, the more exhausted they become. Lessons from Nature Imagine that you found thousands of seashells along an exotic beach. Most of them appear intact, and some are slightly chipped. Some of them are multi-colored, and others are gray and dark. Some have lines and grooves and others look smooth. They vary in shades and shapes. Each of them is different and that’s what gives them their uniqueness and beauty. If the seashells could talk, they could tell you countless stories about their journey to the shore. They would speak of hardships and storms they endured and how forceful waves brought them there. Each seashell has had its own journey. The distress from being in the ocean may not be obvious. But, would it be right to say that one is above or below others? If you were a seashell and you noticed another one that appeared to have no flaws and no apparent signs of distress, would it be fair to say that it has had a better life than yours? The Mind Our human tendency to compare is highly ingrained. Our ancestors needed a quick and judgmental mind in order to stay alive. We also strive for survival and acceptance instinctively. Our mind constantly provides us with advice to do so. When the mind becomes overzealous about protecting us, the challenges crop up. The mind creates thoughts and judgments we believe, and eventually we become stuck. We become distressed and in turn begin to create mental habits that may end up being unhelpful in the long run. Constant comparison is one of them. Learning to Watch Your Thoughts This is an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) principle that can help you create distance between you and your thoughts. If you are inclined to regularly compare yourself with others, you can begin to change that habit. You can learn to notice your thoughts instead of being entangled with them. Sit still and watch your thoughts: Take at least 3-5 minutes twice daily to sit quietly and observe your thoughts. Notice how your mind — the time machine — takes you back to the past or the future. Pay attention when the thoughts are about the present moment. Become curious about what your mind does and when it urges you to jump on the comparison treadmill. Acknowledge that and whatever else may come up during your practice. Write your thoughts on paper: Take at least 5-10 minutes twice daily to write everything the mind is saying in that moment. Notice when the thoughts are judgmental and if they are helpful or unhelpful. Keep noticing as you write them. You can become an observer of your thoughts by writing the old fashioned way. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t let that impostor get in the way of finding joy and more meaning in life. Be patient and remember that it is about the process! View the full article
  14. Like any good parent I spend a lot of time thinking of everything I did wrong when raising my children. While I say this tongue-in-cheek, I do think it is something lots of parents do, to various degrees. None of us is perfect, and given another chance, many of us would do at least some things differently. At the top of my list is the fact that I would be more open about my own anxiety in different situations. Basically, I modeled my parenting in this area after what I knew — my own upbringing. While I was surrounded by loving parents and grandparents as a child, emotions (at least those considered negative) were typically hidden. As we all know, however, children are amazingly perceptive and can often pick up on cues when something is wrong, even when everyone around them is smiling. I remember one time when I was six, I was home alone with my mom, and she became ill. I called my grandparents, who lived across the street, and they came running over, albeit with great big smiles on their faces. An ambulance was called and they remained upbeat as my mom was carried away on a stretcher. Aside from being frightened, I was also confused. Did they not love my mother? Were they actually happy she was sick? Anxiety must be a bad thing if they were obviously covering up their own feelings. Thankfully my mom was okay, but stressful and anxiety-provoking situations continued to be unaddressed throughout my childhood. I vowed to do better with my own children, and I did, to an extent. Like most families, we’ve been faced with many types of challenges throughout the years, and I’ve always tried to be open with my children about my feelings, while encouraging them to share their own emotions. But is that enough? Anxiety-provoking situations can be important teachable moments. I believe I should have let my children know that feeling anxious can be a good thing. Our fight-or-flight response can literally save our lives if our perceived fears are justified. If a wild animal is charging us, we want to feel anxious so we can respond appropriately. I also should have told them the bravest thing we can do when feeling anxious about something is to continue on as they would if they weren’t feeling anxious. I should have told them anxiety is not dangerous, even though it might feel like it. And I also should have told them that sometimes, for absolutely no reason at all, anxiety might decide to pop in – their fight-or-flight response can go awry. Once again, the best thing to do is to acknowledge how you are feeling, and then plow through anyway. I should have told my children that, anxiety or not, they should always strive to live the lives they want and deserve, and always stay true to their values. Of course, it’s never too late. My children are grown now, and at this point, we’ve had all of these conversations. But it’s never too early to discuss anxiety, at an age-appropriate level, of course. As parents, perhaps the best thing we can do for our children is to model the appropriate behavior. And when it comes to anxiety, some conversations wouldn’t hurt either. View the full article
  15. As we have all witnessed in the last few months, 2017 has produced an incredibly destructive hurricane season. For many of us not living in the affected areas, just watching the devastation on TV and hearing about it on the radio or social media can also cause a deep sense of fear and anxiety. It can even cause many to suffer secondhand trauma or more specifically, Secondary Trauma Stress (STS). STS is a psychiatric condition which mimics symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It affects individuals who did not witness the traumatic event firsthand but were still exposed to it in other ways. When we are faced with crisis situations of this magnitude like floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, war, terrorism, etc., we feel our sense of safety and security is compromised — we experience trauma. This kind of emotional devastation can make us fearful for ourselves and for our loved ones. For most people this anxiety and worry is manageable, but for others it can become incapacitating. Trauma is fear on steroids. Hence, symptoms that resemble Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can develop even by experiencing it from afar. Secondhand trauma is indeed real. According to the DSM-V, PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder manifesting after a traumatic experience that involves an actual or perceived threat of death or serious injury. Research shows that about 8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to be effected than men. Remember, anxiety is first and foremost a critical survival mechanism. It’s a vital throwback function dating back to our ancestors, so understanding its adaptive function is important. The part of your brain called the amygdala, or the fear center, is your private 911 operator. It’s the first responder to any perceived threat even if the threat is thousands of miles away. The brain then dispatches the signal to the body increasing blood pressure, heart rate, etc. Vital hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are then sent into the blood stream which gets the body ready for fight-or-flight (the body’s own built-in defense response system). It’s essential to understand that if evolution put anxiety there to safeguard us from injury, it has to be fail-safe, meaning it has to work every time no matter what. What’s the point of having a 911 operator that is incredulous or unsure? Otherwise humans would have perished as a species a long time ago. Since it’s an iron-clad system, it also means it cannot always distinguish between real fears and imagined fears. For example, being late for an important meeting or dreading going to the dentist may feel as frightening as having a gun to your head or being chased by a hungry bear. Therefore you may also struggle to distinguish between disasters close to home that could happen to you and ones that are far away and unlikely to happen to you. So, despite how it makes us feel and how debilitating it can be, anxiety can also be an ally. At times it may feel like a dubious partner, but either way we need to coexist with it. Signs to pay attention to if you have been affected by the “emotional devastation” of the recent disasters. Do you excessively worry about loved ones affected by the recent hurricanes? Do you excessively worry about anyone suffering from the effects of these hurricanes? Strangers too. Do you feel super anxious, fearful, panicked? Do you have heart palpitations? Racing thoughts and labored breathing? Do you feel numb, detached or lacking in emotional responsiveness? Do you experience increased arousal? Do you feel irritable, angry, have trouble concentrating? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you re-experience images or flashbacks of the devastation throughout the day? Do you have recurring bad dreams or nightmares about it? Do you avoid situations, places or even people that remind you of it? Here are some tips to help manage your anxiety: Accept that you DON’T have control. Accept that you don’t have control over much at all, especially not natural disasters. Keep a healthy perspective and try to focus on what you DO have control over, like your job, taking care of your kids, keeping your home safe, caring for others, etc. Accept your fear. It’s natural to feel scared. Allow yourself to acknowledge the anxiety as a natural component of your fight/flight response system which is there to help protect the body from harm. God or evolution did not put it there to harm you. It is there to protect you. Don’t isolate. Stay connected. Fears are fleeting, but human contact is solid and reliable. Connect with others and talk about your fears and concerns. Maintaining social contacts and engaging in activities can help preserve a sense of healthy consistency and provide meaningful opportunities for sharing feelings and relieving tension. Maintain a sense of normalcy. Don’t change the composition of your day-to-day living. Keep routines active. Keep engaging in hobbies, meeting with your friends, going to the movies, to dinner, etc. A sense of normalcy and daily structure also helps to keep your perspective healthy and leaves less opportunity for the mind to wander off and over-magnify your fears. Limit your exposure to media coverage. We all know that staying informed is a good thing to do in these crisis situations, but too much exposure can heighten fears and cause your anxiety to escalate. Your mind can only take so much. And lastly, if your symptoms of anxiety begin to overwhelm you and it impairs your ability to function on a day to day basis, seek professional help. Reach out to a trained counselor or a mental health clinician for guidance and support. Remember, anxiety and phobias are treatable conditions that should never be underestimated. View the full article