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  1. Usually, each day we wake up we can predict how our day will go. We have an outlined schedule that we follow, and we adapt to adjustments throughout the day because they are often minor. We establish a routine that makes us feel safe and comfortable. Routines give us a sense of normalcy. Predictability allows us to feel safe. When these two exist together we often feel that we are in control of our lives. In the absence of routine and predictability there is fear and panic. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines fear and panic as follows: A marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation. Panic is a specific period of intense fear or discomfort. When COVID-19 became a reality, life as we knew it changed. Our routines and ability to predict what would happen next were drastically altered. Our ability to keep ourselves safe was compromised. Fear and panic became the underlying catalyst for our responses. “This is a period of collective uncertainty, which results in the inability for everyone to be comforted during this time,” stated Dr. Jennifer Lusa, The Village for Families & Children’s Associate Vice President of Intensive Programs. Often, when one person is anxious another person will assist them in returning to their baseline of functioning by comforting them. But, when society is anxious, who will provide the comfort? The world is experiencing Generalized Anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 virus. “Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) –despite its name — is a specific type of anxiety disorder. The hallmark feature of GAD is persistent, excessive, and intrusive worry,” says Dr. Deborah R. Glasofer. The image below depicts several of the symptoms of GAD: We have all experienced some or all of these symptoms since we have been forced to deal with the fact that this virus was in our communities. We had to quickly make adjustments to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the community in which we live. The COVID-19 virus was no longer an international issue. Overnight it became a domestic crisis, bringing with it a surge of fear, doubt, panic and anxiety. The most recent statistics show that more than 500,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 25,000 people have died. These numbers will continue to grow, and it is hard to predict when this crisis will end. COVID-19 has left us with more questions than answers. People are left to wonder if or when they will get sick. Will I lose a loved one to this virus? When will I be able to return to work? When will my children be able to go back to school? How long will I be able to survive in isolation? A lack of predictability is keeping us stuck in a state of anxiety. We are holding our breath waiting to live again. It’s important to create a new “normal” to reduce our feelings of anxiety. We are now adjusting to a life where quarantine, social distancing, virtual meetings, virtual connections, working from home and home schooling is now par for the course. To alleviate feelings of anxiety it is important to establish new routines and predictions based on our current circumstances. “The antidote to anxiety is predictable, routine, structure and consistency,” explained Dr. Lusa. “Therefore, it is important for people to do what they know how to do. It is important to live and not be paralyzed by anxiety. It is important to live authentically in the moment, without holding your breath and waiting for tomorrow. It is important to enjoy what you have so you can enjoy today.” To live authentically in the moment; we must practice gratitude. Gratitude is a demonstration of appreciation. It allows us to be at peace with the circumstances around us. “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” – Brené Brown So, let gratitude guide your path. And allow yourself to let go of the way of living you once knew and embrace the new way. Begin to love again, breathe again, find joy in the small moments, find ways to stay connected to those you love, eat healthy, exercise, be of service to others, develop new routines, be spiritually grounded, and practice self-care daily. You may start to find that there are some real benefits to this new way of living: benefits we can carry with us once life does get back to normal. References: American Psychiatric Association, (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (5th ed.) Arlington VA American Psychiatric Publishing Glasofer, D.R. (2019). An Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/generalized-anxiety-disorder-4157247 COVID-19 World News. https://covid19data.com/ View the full article
  2. The war of withdrawal is beginning to settle in, though is not a comfortable routine with people. We are beginning to realize this invisible enemy is stronger than anticipated and unpredictable. Rules surrounding behavior and activities keep growing. If you permit yourself to read and listen to all information about COVID-19, it may cause a spike of depression and anxiety. It may force people to take a closer look at themselves and others in this unpredictable threat. This on-going crisis has no end in sight as we hear and read more cases end in death. What is important is to accept this new lifestyle and pull together those resources to help one grapple with this invisible enemy. There are some people who will be racked by tremors and shakes due to anger and anxiety. They may bite their lips or tear their skin and nails. This individual may pull their hair or do other self-harm behaviors. Nausea may rise instigated by the lack of nutrition, medication, and fear. Some people may experience a rise of panic attacks due to the abrupt halt of treatment, programs and clinical support. These symptoms may sound like withdrawal symptoms from opioids when in fact it is a different kind of withdrawal. We are experiencing two types of withdrawal, social and physical, both effects our mental, emotional and spiritual health. Social connection is much easier to sustain by technology and concerted efforts to reach out to others. I never thought I would truly appreciate technology until now, as I utilize Zoom, Duo and Skype. We crave visual sightings with people. We connect by holding conversations, smiling and laughter. Physical connection is more complicated. This love language helps people feel alive, connected and recognized. While those who live with others may receive the touch of love, those alone and missing others must resign themselves to accepting a visual or verbal hug. Not easy but necessary to help one survive this pandemic. Yet there are people who don’t like to be told what to do and fight the rules and new policies on how to behave in public. This oppositional and defiant behavior puts the individual and others at risk of contracting the virus. The reality is we don’t have answers and must practice safe hygiene methods to protect ourselves from this invisible war. We are all at risk. We must perfect a new method of living within our walls. Ways to manage this bizarre period in our lives: Call family, friends, neighbors, and work staff, but also check up on those you don’t normally contact. Remember cooking alone or with others can be fun, though watch what you eat and how often. TV can be used to play video games, follow along with fitness shows, watch beloved movies, and learn about things other than the virus by watching documentaries, science, or history programs. Play music — it doesn’t matter what you play, music lifts you up, brings back memories. What songs have meaning for you? Play them. Sing along or dance. Take a walk, smile and say hello. This is a connection, it says, “I am pleased to notice you” and “I am not alone.” The byproduct of walking helps you feel and be healthier, improves your physical and mental sharpness and mood by increasing the serotonin level. Laugh, crack jokes, be silly, find the irony in the forced isolation. It forces one to slow down and take stock of the environment. Learning to live in your home can help you see what needs to be repaired, removed, and cleaned. Identify and appreciate what you have and what you don’t need. Forced home living may reduce tension you may otherwise feel from the many tasks you assign to yourself to complete in the recent past, learning to live with being under-scheduled is a new challenge for some. Identify ways to reduce tension — healthy behaviors — exercise, write, walk, talk, start a hobby, read, and/or have virtual meetings. Streamline your activity and don’t dawdle when you must go to the supermarket or pharmacy. Call your doctor for guidance if you have concerns about contracting the illness. Help others: family, friends, neighbors, the elderly and ill with food and other necessary items. Laugh, while therapeutic it also relieves pressure and improves mood. Stay positive, mindful and healthy. Revising and reinventing how you spend your time in your home and sanctuary is necessary and important. Get ideas from others. There are multiple resources available, like Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. We are nothing but inventive, creative, caring and giving as a community. We can get through this together. We are a team. Be safe and healthy. View the full article
  3. The coronavirus has made its way into our local communities. Schools and businesses are closing. Folks are being asked to stay home whenever possible and keep social distancing. The World Health Organization has called it a pandemic as it has spread worldwide. People are concerned about their family’s health, food supplies, financial loss, isolation and the possibility of losing a loved one. On top of that, we are constantly being bombarded with news reports and social media with details of what is happening all around the world, most of it painting a bleak forecast. All of this can be overwhelming. At this point in time, people are experiencing different levels of anxiety. Anxiety symptoms can include excessive worry, fear, increased heart rate, hypervigilance, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, and changes in appetite, amongst others. Here are 5 tips that can help you manage anxiety during this season. 1. Disconnect The constant flow of information can be overwhelming. Yes, you should stay informed, but you don’t have to stay connected to the news media 24/7. Give yourself permission to take breaks from the news and any source of stressful information. After you do that, go to step #2. 2. Breathe When we are anxious, our muscles can tighten up and our breathing can become shallow. Taking deep breaths helps us relax. Did you know that extending your exhale activates the calming part of the nervous system? The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), known as the rest and digest system, slows down the heart rate and helps with digestion amongst many other things. So, if your appetite is off, you can’t sit still, or your heart rate is elevated, BREATHE! A daily mindful breathing meditation practice will help keep your nervous system in check. Note: Always check with your doctor to determine that you are not experiencing a medical condition that is causing the symptoms. 3. Engage in a pleasant activity. Hey, if most of the time we are going to be at home, then let’s find ways to engage in things that give us pleasure. So, get out your dusty arts and craft materials, bake, hit the weights, do some gardening, read a book, do an online watch party, watch your favorite movies… you name it! 4. Physical Activity Exercise helps reduce muscle tension and increases anti-anxiety chemicals in your body. So, move your body. If you don’t know where to start, hit the internet. There are many FREE options available that will teach you how to dance, do pilates, yoga, stretch, get a six pack, do cardio, lift weights, etc. Alternatively, you can ask your gym instructor if they can give you a private online session. That is a great opportunity to support your instructor while business is slow. 5. Social Support But what about social distancing? Well, we should follow the recommendations of the experts and keep social distancing. At the same time, we can provide each other with support the old-fashioned way by picking up the phone and calling someone, or also by texting, making a video call, or chatting on social media platforms. We can also connect with our neighbors, at a six-foot distance of course, to provide support to each other in a time of need. Don’t isolate yourself from human connection. We want to avoid unnecessary physical human contact, not human connection. Stay engaged and reach out to others. There are many things we can do to reduce our anxiety levels. Find the ones that work best for you. I hope these tips help you during this season. If you find that it is challenging to manage anxiety or the anxiety is increasing, reach out. Anxiety can become unmanageable overtime. Don’t let anxiety rule your world. Seek professional help. View the full article
  4. The stress that COVID-19 has placed on our health care workers is immense. Exhaustion, frustration and feeling overwhelmed has become a daily norm for many of our beloved medical professionals who are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. Hospitals struggle to find space to help those with the virus while at the same time continuing to care for all their other patients too. “All hands on deck” is not just a term used for a crew of a ship but can now also be used for a crew of a hospital. During this very difficult time, it’s more important than ever that we take care of our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals as we battle this pandemic. Since these are unprecedented times, typical stress management techniques are not enough to help these caring professionals deal with their stressful jobs. They need an emotional first aid kit to promote a resilient mindset as they battle this devastating virus. Here are some emotional first aid tips to help those on the front-lines battling COVID-19: You are not alone. At times, it can feel like a lonely and uphill battle fighting COVID-19, especially after a long and grueling shift. Remember you are not alone; you are part of a medical team and system fighting this pandemic and can also feel confident that your loved ones and your community are behind you in this fight. The duty to care and to protect others is probably part of what drives you to get up and go to work every day, but just remember you are not doing it alone. You are part of a band of brothers and sisters combatting this virus. We are truly all in this together. Compassion for Yourself It’s more important than ever to remember to be kind to yourself during this challenging time. You are dealing with frustration and grief everyday especially as we continue to understand and get ahead of this virus. You are probably surrounded by the virus every moment of your day as you care for your patients at work and then come home where your loved ones are talking about it as well. You may not even be able to escape it as the media inundates us with information about COVID-19 throughout the day. The ultimate compassion you can show yourself is to soothe your stress in whatever way that works best for you. Find moments throughout your day where you take a mental break and decompress. Self-care is key! Sleep, hydrate, exercise, connect with family/friends, play vide games, watch Netflix. Pamper yourself. Don’t forget to enjoy your pets, they miss and love you too. Know Your Worth You may already know that you do a very important job but now more than ever, you will be a part of history as we battle this epic virus. You are brave and courageous. You persevere even when you’re so exhausted both mentally and physically. Be proud of the work you do each day and who you are. Society salutes you and stands behind you and let this be the motivation that helps keep you going. Know that this is not going to last forever. There are so many unknowns related to COVID-19 which is what instills a lot of collective anxiety but do know that this pandemic will end. There will be a point when we will be able to breathe easier and slow down. We will have learned so much not just about COVID-19 but about ourselves and our resilience as a species on this planet. We may only initially remember the dire effects of the pandemic, such as the grief and loss it brought to us, the loss life as well as the limits to our freedom as we abided by the safety measures to contain the virus. But do believe that ultimately, we will prevail as we always do to overcome hardship as a collective human spirit. Please use this emotional first aid kit as a tool for yourself as you care for those with COVID-19. Please remember to be grateful for your team as you are not alone in this fight, to be compassionate and gentle with yourself as you are such an important soldier in this battle that will not last forever because we will win the war. Thank you for all that you do. View the full article
  5. For some of us, panic-buying all the goods in the supermarket is logical, for others? Not so much. Were you one of the people sitting at home watching the news and scrolling through social media observing the panic-buying of toilet paper with incredulity or were you one of the people out in the stores stocking up? Both of these patterns of behavior are rational in their own ways, but if (like me) you were the former, observing the chaos with confusion, you have probably been stuck on the question, why? What makes some people more prone to panic-buying antics than others? And why toilet paper of all things? I can’t really offer an answer to that last question but psychology may have some answers for us with the first question. Understanding Personality Types At the best of times, a lot of our behavior might not be entirely rational, and during times of crisis and global pandemics? Even less so. There are many factors that influence how we behave including our habits and interruptions to them, our situational contexts, and our personality. While our general personality and core character traits tend to be stable over time and within various contexts, many psychologists believe that the key to changing our behavior comes from better understanding our personality and keeping it in check when we need to (for example, by not having a punch-up in the supermarket over the last pack of toilet paper). During times of uncertainty, understanding your personality could be key to ensuring you’re practicing the best possible behaviors to keep yourself — and those around you — safe. The Big Five You may have already come across what is commonly referred to as The Big Five Personality Traits, also known as the Five Factor (FFM) Model and the OCEAN Model. Essentially, this group of personality theories posits that there are five basic dimensions for personality. We each display characteristics within these five dimensions, but to different degrees, and the degree to which we land in specific dimensions informs our general personality. The five traits are: Openness Conscientiousness Extraversion Agreeableness Neuroticism Within each of these dimensions, are lists of other associated personality traits and characteristics. There are heaps of online tests you can do to uncover your basic personality type (Something I highly encourage you to do if you haven’t already. I like this one from Truity as it’s well presented, and gives a good starting point from which to explore further). So, How Is This Related to Panic-Buying Toilet Paper? Each of the big five personality traits sits on a spectrum, so for example: Neuroticism can range from aspects of withdrawal, anxiety, and defensiveness to volatility and aggression. You can probably guess why I chose to highlight that particular trait in this article. During a crisis, such as the current pandemic and it’s unprecedented consequences on our local and global communities, many of our behavioral cues will be driven by our personality, and so far these are bridging across five core themes: Anxiety Social Distancing Stockpiling Community Support Micro Aggressions So, for example, for an individual who is more naturally disposed towards neuroticism and withdrawal, the concept of social distancing might feel more natural to them than those who are closer to the aggression end of the spectrum. Individuals at this end might see social distancing as removing their sense of control or their rights to conduct certain activities. In turn, this could lead to micro-aggressions. If volatility feels more natural to your personal disposition, then seeing others stockpiling could lead to feelings of needing to “get your share” and not wanting to “miss out.” Despite all logical information available saying that excessive stockpiling is not necessary, these scenes could trigger strong feelings that lead to behaviors you might otherwise resist. Even for people who are, in normal circumstances, calm, collected and polite, these external cues, when strong enough, can overwhelm more logical thinking. It is not to say that this is “wrong,” but that your innate personality type is being triggered. Unacknowledged and unchecked, this could lead to more troubling behavior. Such as panic-buying toilet paper and getting into fights about it in the supermarket. Just to be fair, it’s not just those who exhibit strong neurotic tendencies that are prone to stockpiling. At one end of the spectrum for “Conscientiousness” is the need for order and being prepared. An individual with this disposition, when faced with scenes of panic-buying, might feel the need to be ready for “worst-case scenarios” and avoiding the temptation to hoard could be very difficult. Can You Change Your Personality Type? A lot of the research suggests that our personality types are pretty fixed, but with conscious self-awareness, we can make changes to the way we respond and react to them. Knowing your personality type and spending some time reflecting on how it shows up and influences your behavior in given situations is the best possible start to being able to make the positive changes we want. We cannot control what happens around us but we can control how we react — both emotionally and behaviorally. Now, perhaps more than ever, this is something we should all be consciously practicing. View the full article
  6. When you already have an anxiety disorder, and a real pandemic hits, you can feel especially lost and terrified. Clinical psychologist Regine Galanti, Ph.D, helps her clients recognize that their anxiety is a false alarm—“it’s not your house on fire, it’s a pizza burning in the toaster.” But because of Coronavirus, she said, your house is actually ablaze. In other words, it makes sense that you’re anxious. It makes sense that your symptoms have flared up or gotten worse, agreed Emily Bilek, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor at University of Michigan. Bilek noted that people understandably have genuine fears about their jobs, their health, their homes, their finances, and the pandemic’s short- and long-term impact on society. But while your anxiety might be peaking, there are many helpful actions you can take. One of the best steps is to schedule a teletherapy session with your therapist (or find a therapist to work with). Here are other tips to try: Set limits. Keeping the TV on your favorite news network and scrolling social media all day long puts you in a constant state of anxiety. “[H]earing about all the danger increases our perception of the threat,” said Galanti, who has a private practice in Long Island, N.Y. Instead, she encouraged readers to carve out specific times to check for updates. This way you stay informed without being blindsided and bombarded with negative information. Another helpful limit to set is not talking about the pandemic: “Tell your friends and family that you’ll be changing the subject when it comes up,” Galanti said. “This will not only help limit your anxiety, but also help others as well.” Practice sustainable self-care. Prior to the pandemic, you might’ve relied on a slew of self-care practices: You went to a specific yoga studio you love, meditated on your commute, and took long weekend walks. Not having these habits when you need them most might lead you to over-do it at home. Instead, Bilek recommended picking realistic, attainable activities. Do a 10-minute yoga video on YouTube. Drink plenty of water. Take 5-minute deep breathing breaks from work. Take care of yourself in small ways. Schedule daily worry sessions. “It’s normal to worry right now, but it doesn’t have to take over your day,” said Galanti, also author of the new book Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress. When a worry thought pops up, she suggested jotting it down quickly and re-reading this list during a 15- to 20-minute worry session. Curb caffeine. Bilek noted that we tend to use caffeine to cope with negative feelings, such as boredom and fatigue. However, “this can make us more vulnerable to physical feelings of anxiety, and thus panic attacks.” Plus, she said, caffeine can mimic the physiological symptoms of different health concerns. Instead of mindlessly chugging three cups of coffee or soda throughout the day, slowly savor one small cup in the morning with your breakfast. Spot patterns in your panic. If you’re prone to panic attacks, it’s easy to confuse those symptoms (e.g., shortness of breath) with the respiratory symptoms of Coronavirus, Galanti said. This can lead you to go to the ER and risk possible exposure to the virus. This is why it’s important to pay attention to what precipitates your symptoms. Galanti pointed out that panic symptoms typically come and go, while virus symptoms do not. So, if you’re having trouble breathing as you’re watching the news or thinking about the pandemic, it’s panic. “The best way to manage panic [attacks] is to embrace them. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but the more you face panic, the more you’ll see that [panic attacks aren’t] as dangerous as you fear and that you can cope with them.” Get good sleep. Bilek stressed the importance of maintaining a consistent sleep schedule—waking up and going to bed at the same time—even if your days are much more flexible now. Replace TV watching or social media scrolling with one soothing practice. For example, before bed, you might listen to a self-compassionate meditation, take a warm bath, or try one of these sleep-promoting yoga poses. Get grounded. When Bilek’s clients are overwhelmed with worry or anxiety, she suggests they identify things in their environment that they normally don’t notice. This can include searching for a unique shade of green, counting the number of different sounds you hear, or looking for an interesting texture, she said. “By focusing on our senses, we are necessarily brought into the present, even if just for a moment.” Look to your values. “We can’t change our circumstances, but we can choose what kind of person we want to be in this crisis and act in accordance with our values,” Galanti said. For example, instead of searching for toilet paper on Amazon again, you do a craft with your kids or watch Frozen 2 “for the bazillionth time.” Instead of checking the news, you FaceTime with your mom. If you’re still struggling with increasing, worsening symptoms of anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. In fact, you can talk to a licensed therapist right now. You can get through this. And you will. View the full article
  7.  Cannabis, weed, marijuana, pot. It goes by several names, but we all know what it smells like. As weed becomes more mainstream, we on the Not Crazy podcast want to know: Is marijuana really an effective treatment for anxiety? Is it just a coping mechanism? Or a vice? In today’s podcast, Gabe and Jackie look at the research and weigh out the evidence. They also interview Eileen Davidson, a rheumatoid arthritis patient who regularly uses marijuana as a medicine to see what she has to say. What’s your take? Tune in for an open-minded discussion about weed. (Transcript Available Below) SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW 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. Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare, and patient community building. She lives with multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and depression. You can find her online at JackieZimmerman.co, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Computer Generated Transcript for “Anxiety- Smoking Weed” 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 Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard. Gabe: Welcome to this week’s episode of the Not Crazy Podcast. I’d like to introduce my co-host, Jackie. Jackie: And that guy is my co-host, Gabe. Gabe: And today we are going to be talking about. I’m not even sure what to call it. It’s been known as marijuana. It’s been known as cannabis. It’s been known as wacky tobaccy, if you go back to like my grandparents. I guess pot is the street name now. Jackie: You sound like so, Grandpa Gabe, right now. You’re like, what are the kids calling it these days? Gabe: Well, just Jackie: It’s weed, Gabe. We’re talking about weed. Gabe: But I mean, it used to be grass. It has had a prolific number of slang names. I mean, sincerely. Right? Jackie: Yes, that is true. Gabe: And I went to a dispensary the other day and I was like, hey, I’m here to buy pot and they’re like cannabis, sir? And I was like, well, weed. And they’re like, marijuana, sir? So I think that there is some attempt to make a demarcation between slang terms of marijuana and non-slang terms of marijuana. Is that what you’re seeing out in the world, Jackie? Jackie: I think it depends on where you are obtaining said marijuana, right? If you’re purchasing it from a store, they’re like, yes, we sell marijuana here. If you’re going to the corner, you’re probably going to buy some weed. I think it just depends on where you’re getting it. Same stuff, different name. Gabe: And this is not unusual, especially in America. Language is always evolving and different generations have different terms for different things. Remember when sick meant like you were sick and cool meant you were a bad ass? Now sick means that you’re a bad ass. And if you say cool, kids just look at you like you’re just, you’re just stupid. Jackie: Which is like how I’m looking at you right now, because the more you talk just the older you sound. Low key, you sound like a real old guy right now. Gabe: I love how you use low key, another slang term that I am not familiar with. But moving on to the topic at hand, marijuana is everywhere and depending on what Internet site you’re on. Marijuana is either the magical cure for everything, literally, no matter what problem you have physically or mentally, it can absolutely, unequivocally cure it. Or marijuana is satanic. If you even walk past it, you will murder your entire family. You won’t go to college and your eyes will inexplicably turn red. And our research, Jackie, of course, showed that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Jackie: As it does with most things, but what we’re focusing on today specifically is the use of marijuana, weed, pot, grass, reefer, whatever you want to call it in terms of treating anxiety. And I’m really excited to talk about this because this is something that is like polarizing. People either thinks it is like the end all be all, cures anxiety or they’re like, it doesn’t help at all. And you should definitely not use it for anxiety. Gabe: One of the things that I think about is my Diet Coke habit, I’m gonna go with habit for the sake of today’s show. I have an anxiety disorder. I suffer from a lot of anxiety. And when I get really twitchy and out of sorts and I’m just really stressed out, worried, panic. You know, the racing thoughts start to come in when I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack. I stop everything that I’m doing. I find a fountain machine of Diet Coke, which usually involves going someplace, taking a walk someplace, getting in my car. There’s a whole ritual surrounding me getting a Diet Coke. And I can state unequivocally that when I do this ritual and I’m sitting in the corner and I’m drinking my fountain Diet Coke, my anxiety is relieved 100%. This does not make Diet Coke a cure or a treatment for anxiety. And I think that that might be some of what’s happening with marijuana, because no medical study shows that it’s a treatment for anxiety. And again, medical studies are ongoing. But as of right now, there’s nothing that states that anxiety is cured or treated by marijuana. Jackie: You’re right. And part of me wants to be like, no, you’re wrong, it totally helps because I think it actually does help a lot of people. The problem is, you know, that I love my stats. The stats do not show this. I actually pulled up three different studies specifically on this topic. One study from 2019 is from The Lancet Psychiatry. It looked at the effects of cannabinoids on mental health for nearly 40 years of research, which is like a lot of research. And their findings basically said there was scarce evidence to support that cannabis helps to improve mental health symptoms. Forty years of research in this one study saying like meh, probably not that helpful. But there was another study in 2018 in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, which is like, how is there even a journal dedicated to this? But there is. Sixty two percent of people who use CBD use it for a medical condition. And the top three are pain, anxiety, and depression. So my takeaway on this is we don’t have proof in the science that it works, but we do have proof that people are using it for these reasons and are finding benefit in it. Gabe: And in some ways, this is a tough one, right? Because I think about the number of people that tell me that I should not take prescription medications for my bipolar disorder because after all, I just need diet and exercise, better sleep hygiene. I just we’ve done so many shows on this. It’s just it makes my little head want to explode. But I still go back to the definition of treatment and cure. And the definition of treatment and cure is not I feel better when I’m done. It actually impacts the disease and puts you in a better place when you’re done. Lots of things make you feel better. Jackie hugging my wife makes me feel better. Having a strong support system makes me feel better. These things are not treatments. They’re encouraged. They’re important. And they may well help you. But I just get really, really anxious. I just get really, really anxious when people are like, oh, I treat my anxiety with this because there’s so many reasons. But let’s touch base on this for a moment. Marijuana in this country is kind of messed up, one dependent on the state that you live in, you might actually be committing a crime. That’s number one. But in every state in our union, there’s multiple types of marijuana. Right? There’s the good growers. There’s the growers that are overseen by the government in the states where it’s legal. And then there’s the person that’s just like randomly growing it. And we don’t know what kind of job they did, what kind of a strain they did, or whether or not they doused it in rat poison. And all of these things are marijuana to the end user. That worries me as well, because there’s no consistency here. Jackie: I have a lot of feelings about that. Yes. Correct. No consistency given the fact that our government has not legalized it universally, which means that it cannot be regulated universally. Even if it is legal where you are, it automatically means it’s more expensive. So you may still be going to a street dealer regardless. So the consistency factor is definitely an issue. However, cycling back for a minute, while it is not proven that it is an effective treatment, I think that judging by 62 percent of users and everybody else, including a 2017 study in the International Journal of Drug Policy, where people believe that cannabis is an effective way to treat conditions in place of prescriptions for anxiety and depression. What this tells me is in terms of symptoms, management, it can be or it is effective depending on who you talk to. So is it treating anxiety? I don’t know. I don’t have the science, but is it treating the symptoms of anxiety? Yeah, it looks like it does. And are those one in the same? I don’t think that they are. I think that you can have plenty of medications that treat the actual underlying problem and lots of medications that treat the symptoms of the problem. Gabe: Obviously, I can’t disagree with anything that you just said. However, there have been similar studies on whether or not cigarettes help you cope with anxiety. And the reality is that cigarettes have been studied for a long, long time. And the research shows unequivocally that cigarette smoking actually does not help with anxiety. However, when they asked people if it helps them, they said yes. You line up all of the smokers and you say, Hey, does smoking relieve anxiety? They’re all going to say, yes. The science is very clear that in fact it increases anxiety, but they believe that it’s helpful. This is the problem with self-reporting, right. A lot of people believe that things that are dangerous for them or are actively hurting them are, in fact, beneficial. Jackie: I don’t know. I feel like there’s some aspect of placebo in this. Where, yes, the stats from the scientists are saying this actually causes anxiety and the people who are using it are saying, no, I feel better after doing it. So who’s right? I don’t think there’s is actually a right and wrong in this, which goes against everything that I normally say because there are science leading one way. But if the person says, I feel better after this, doesn’t it mean that it’s good for that person? Gabe: Potentially, I think we go back to my Diet Coke addiction. The reality is, is drinking as much Diet Coke as I do could be harmful. I should drink way more water and I should go for more walks and I should call my mom more and I should tell my wife I love her more. Life is personal choices. And when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, from a political standpoint, I think it should absolutely be legal because it’s it’s been found to be no more dangerous for you than smoking or alcohol. And in fact, in some cases, much safer. But moving that aside, to answer the question of somebody suffering from anxiety, should they use marijuana as a treatment? I’m gonna go with no. However, somebody suffering from anxiety, should they use marijuana as a coping mechanism? That’s a personal choice. And Gabe is there. So I sort of feel the one-two punch. You should still get treatment from the medical establishment. But we all have coping skills. Look, people watch Family Guy on repeat to get through the day. That’s just a coping mechanism. But please don’t send me an email and tell me that Family Guy is the treatment for depression because not. Jackie: I think the root of this whole conversation is we’re just talking about vices, right? Like your vice is Diet Coke. We’re talking about cigarettes and weed and Family Guy. Right? Whatever your vice is. I think we can unequivocally agree that vices help with stress management. Right? That’s why people drink, right? They’re stressed out or they’re angry. They want to erase the feelings that they’re feeling in that moment. That’s why we have vices. That’s what they do for us. But you’re right, you can’t say that like the good outweighs the bad. And all of those vices right? You are consuming a metric shit load of aspartame. Is that good? Probably not. I don’t know, but it makes you feel better. So, you know, are we talking long-term health? Are we talking short term? I don’t think it really matters. Does marijuana help with anxiety? Maybe it could. I don’t know. I think it’s so personal. And I think that, again, we just don’t have enough research at this point to say one way or the other, because even the studies that we’re quoting right now, they’re all looking for different things. They’re looking for is it effective? They’re looking for do people think it’s effective? Are they using it in place of something else? There’s no study that really has touched on all the bases that we have yet in terms of is it effective for this? Is it effective for this in conjunction with prescribed medication? We don’t know. So I guess choose your own adventure as long as you’re smart and healthy and not a dumb dumb. Gabe: I really just want to hit hard on what Jackie said about the “we don’t know.” There are so many people that just believe that it is the cure for everything. And there’s so many people that believe that it is the most horrible thing. It’s just a pox on our nation. Those are not the two camps that we should be in. We should continue the research. We should find out what is good and what is bad. I just want to be clear that any type of self-medicating is dangerous. Jackie: A lot of people use this to self-medicate. Self-medicating, we know is dangerous, especially when you’re not being honest with your health care team. So this is one of those things that, you know, if it works for you, that’s great. But don’t force it on anybody else because we just don’t have the research to back that it is actually effective. Gabe: We’ll be right back 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. Jackie: And we’re back talking about using marijuana as a treatment for anxiety. Gabe: Jackie, we’ve talked about the stats, we’ve talked about the study, we’ve bantered back and forth. Let’s talk to somebody who uses marijuana for her anxiety disorder and also for rheumatoid arthritis. Can you give her an introduction? Because she was very candid and very awesome. It was great of her to call in. Jackie: Yes, sure. We invited our friend Eileen, who we know through advocacy, to come on and talk about why she uses marijuana to help with her anxiety, but also why she uses it for her RA. And I think she’s going to have a lot of helpful insight on this. Gabe: And we’re going to roll that interview right now. Jackie: We’re here with our friend Eileen. Gabe and I know Eileen outside in the real world, but we thought she’d be a really great guest to bring on the show today. So welcome, Eileen. Eileen Davidson: Hi, my name is Eileen Davidson and I live in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, which has been worldwide known for longer than it’s been legal in Canada to have very, very good weed. Gabe: We are so super excited to have you because you are willing to publicly talk about using marijuana or cannabis. Why are you so public about using it? Because in many places it’s still a crime. And even the places where it’s legal, it’s still very much looked down upon. But you’re like, hey, I smoke weed. Eileen: Well, because I also believe in the medical component of it. I live with rheumatoid arthritis and mental health issues. So to me, it’s very medical. And because I don’t really drink because of my autoimmune disease, it’s also a tiny bit recreational and it’s legal in Canada. Jackie: Eileen, are there any specific symptoms that you’re using medical marijuana to treat? Eileen: Yes. So living with a chronic illness comes with multiple different types of symptoms, as well as side effects from the medications used to treat these diseases. So, particularly with rheumatoid arthritis, I have chronic fatigue, consistent chronic pain as well as sometimes nausea. So that is another reason why I actually do enjoy smoking marijuana because it really tackles the nausea and then also helps with the loss of appetite that I can experience. And then it also helps with not being able to sleep because of pain. And it’s helped with a number of the medications that I’ve gone through that have caused vomiting. And so it’s kind of a drug that I don’t use for just one specific thing, but a multitude of different things. Gabe: I do like that you’re so open about it. Eileen: I wasn’t always open about it, though. I used to be actually very against marijuana. Jackie: Ooh, what changed your mind? Eileen: Debilitating diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. So I’ve been around it a lot before because my earliest memories of it are my father smoking weed while doing these creative, surrealistic paintings. My dad was kind of a hippie and so like my childhood is basically memories of the smell of oil paints, marijuana and the sound of Pink Floyd playing to these crazy paintings. So, but it was illegal back then. So I felt very conflicted a lot because I was like, why are you smoking marijuana when that’s supposed to be a drug, as they’re telling you in school? And so I didn’t really understand. I never wanted to touch drugs my whole life. I’ve never touched anything other than coffee, marijuana and alcohol, a little bit of wine, but being diagnosed with something that causes severe pain and having to go through medications that have a lot of side effects. At that time, I was like, well, this is medicinal to me, so I’ll try it. And I felt like an idiot being against it before. My diagnosis really opened my eyes to this isn’t really in the same line as like heroin or cocaine and things like that. Though, I never tried those. And it was also really helping people. People like me who were in diagnosis of cancer, M.S., Parkinson’s, all sorts of things. What I didn’t expect is that it would also help with my mental health. Jackie: And did you discover that just sort of like happenstance, you were like, oh, I kind of feel good everywhere right now? Or was it more of something that you actually tested? You were like. I’m feeling really anxious. Let’s see if this helps here. Eileen: I would say it first started off with me noticing that it did have an effect on my mental health. When I first started smoking weed, I didn’t know about THC, CBD and how it would kind of interact with me. So I would try something, not know what kind of strain it is and then kind of feel full-blown anxiety attack. But then I would also try a different one and feel super relaxed. And so I discovered that I had to kind of watch which strains helps with my anxiety and didn’t help with my anxiety and to kind of research so that I could be better informed. Gabe: So my next question is sort of somewhat of a controversial one, because it sounds like you’re self-prescribed, like a doctor didn’t prescribe this, it’s kind of a trial and error on your behalf, is that correct? Eileen: Yes. Now, I do follow guidelines of places like the Arthritis Society because they are a wealth of knowledge for people like me who are interested in supplying medical cannabis. But when you have a hook up, it’s also cheaper. Gabe: As funny as that is, though, do you tell all of your doctors that you’re utilizing cannabis as a treatment or do you keep that on the down low? Eileen: I tell them, because I think it’s important to be honest with your doctors about every aspect in your health. It’s really important to listen to the patient voice when it comes to their needs. And that’s including their medications. And marijuana can be a medication. Jackie: So let me ask you this in conjunction with telling your doctors about this. Before you started using weed for anxiety. Were you prescribed medication for anxiety and if so, were they working? Eileen: Yes, I’ve tried a couple of different medications for anxiety. I did find that they worked. I was on them for a number of years. Medication you won’t find the perfect drug in one-go usually. It’s a number of drugs you have to try. I tried three or four for my anxiety and depression. I tried over 18 for my rheumatoid arthritis. And I don’t know how many strains of marijuana I’ve tried for everything I go through. So that’s what you have to learn. And what works for one may not work for the other. Jackie: So do you think that it works better for your anxiety than the prescriptions did? Eileen: No, I definitely don’t think it works better or worse. I think they work together. Gabe: I really like what you’re saying there, and I don’t know if I agree or disagree, I’m really on the fence about a lot of this stuff, which is one of the reasons that we wanted to interview somebody who is actually utilizing cannabis and marijuana for treatment because we wanted to tell the whole story. But one of the things that I think about so often are the people who are self-medicating, the people who are suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, psychosis, and they run out, they meet somebody on a street corner or in an alley and they buy marijuana and they’re like, oh, look, I’m treating my mental health issues. And that sounds so incredibly scary to me. And I just want to make sure that none of our listeners are hearing that that works. What are your thoughts on that? Eileen: Don’t ever, ever do that. I’ve seen how that turns out. I know about good people who are at risk for having negative psychoactive effects from marijuana and need to watch out for that. Like I said, if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you, but it might work for someone else. So it’s really important to keep an open mind. Jackie: So I have one more question that’s kind of getting into the specifics. There are a boatload of different ways at this point that you can sort of consume marijuana in the world we live in today. And I’m wondering, have you experimented with this in terms of efficacy for anxiety? Is it better to smoke it or eat it? Is CBD oil the way to go? What is the best way to use this for anxiety that you’ve discovered for yourself? Eileen: Well, depending on what you’re experiencing with your anxiety, if I just finish something and I need to relax from it, I’ll probably smoke a joint. But if I need to go somewhere where I might be experiencing anxiety and I don’t want to be high, then I’m going to take some CBD oil. But I know my triggers now. I don’t have the negative effects that maybe I had when I first started because I’ve self experimented and also I watch how much I am taking and I take generally pretty good care of myself overall. Gabe: Eileen, thank you so much for being here, where can folks find you online if they want to learn more about your advocacy because you’re huge in the rheumatoid arthritis community? Eileen: Well, thank you. They can find me online. I go by Chronic Eileen, which I guess has a little bit to imply with being a chronic. But also chronic illness. So that’s Chronic Eileen, and Eileen is E I L E E N, and they can find me at ChronicEileen.com or Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. Gabe: Well, we really appreciate you being here. Thank you so much. Eileen: No problem. Thank you so much for having me. Gabe: I always love it when we have guests on, Jackie. Jackie: I do love a good guest. Eileen is awesome. She is a really great advocate online. You should follow her. Everything that she does, Gabe: Fan girl. Jackie: She’s a lovely person. Gabe: Well, Jackie, obviously we picked her for a reason, we know that she’s a great advocate. What did you think of everything that Eileen had to say? Jackie: I felt like it was really great that Eileen mentioned that not only does she use this, we’ll say off label, non-approved, but she also uses it in conjunction with her medication. This isn’t a replacement for her medication. It helps with her medication and that she’s very honest with her doctors about her usage. Gabe: I like that she actually used the word recreational at one point because I think that sometimes, advocates for marijuana, they’re so heavily focused on its medical benefits, which there are medical benefits. There aren’t any approved for mental health reasons, but there’s medical benefits approved for physical reasons, physical health reasons. There are so many. I like that she was open about the fact that there’s a recreational aspect. I think it’s a more moderate and realistic and reasonable point of view. Jackie: Yeah, dude, I mean, sometimes people smoke weed for fun and that’s the only reason why they use it. And for those people who do use it for medicinal reasons, you can’t lie that sometimes it’s still a fun hobby recreationally. Gabe: One of the things that I want to talk about is something that I just I hear constantly and that’s people saying, well, marijuana can’t possibly be bad for you because it’s all natural. I hear this constantly. All natural, all natural. How can something all natural be bad for you? It drives me insane. And the reason why is because there’s all kinds of all natural things that are very, very, very dangerous. Strychnine is all natural. Poison ivy is all natural. I don’t think anybody listening to our show is going to get buck naked and rub poison ivy all over their body. Because after all, it’s all natural. How bad could it be? Jackie: You know, I bet if you told people to rub poison ivy on them and they would lose weight, they would do it. Which just goes to show that, yes, something could be natural, but you still have to be a smart person and you still have to use common sense when using whatever that natural substance is. Gabe: The thing is, I agree with you. And this just shows the level of misunderstanding that we have. I want to be clear, rubbing poison ivy on your body will not make you lose weight at all in any way. Period. Please do not send e-mail to the Not Crazy podcast saying that you did it. I hope that you are paying attention when you listen to this part because it’s very, very important. Bad things occur in nature, just like good things do. The other very, very important part that we want to remind you of is always work with your doctor. Always. Jackie: Always, always, always. And even if you live in a state where this is illegal right now, when it feels kind of like you shouldn’t tell your doctor about it, you need to, because they need to know these things in order to provide you with the appropriate treatment. And if there’s a part of you that’s worried about telling your doctor, is there a part of you that thinks that this method of treatment is wrong? I don’t know. Maybe that’s something worth figuring out in your head if you’re hesitant to tell your doctor. Gabe: Jackie, that was a show. Listen up, listeners. If you liked our podcast, please subscribe to it on whatever podcast player you downloaded this show on. And please tell your friends. Share us on social media and use your words. Tell people why you liked it, email it, bring it up in support groups, pass the word around. We’re giving away free stickers. All you have to do is email show@PsychCentral.com, and in the subject line write stickers and we will send them your way. We will see everybody next week. Jackie: Thanks for listening, everyone. Announcer: You’ve been listening to Not Crazy 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. To work with Jackie, go to JackieZimmerman.co. Not Crazy travels well. Have Gabe and Jackie record an episode live at your next event. E-mail show@psychcentral.com for details. Announcer: I’m here to tell you about Industrial Hemp Farms CBD flower. CBD hemp flower is readily available from a number of different sources, but their hemp flower is 100 percent organic. This is farm to table hemp flower. Check them out at Industrial Hemp Farms dot com. View the full article
  8. If you suffer from panic attacks or are prone to them, you might find that you are experiencing them more than usual. The uncertainty in these challenging times as we face a global pandemic — it’s the perfect storm for intense fear and a sense of dread that cripples those who suffer from panic attacks. It triggers physical symptoms like a pounding heart, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, or trembling. It can last 5 to 20 minutes but can feel like forever. Despite the scary situation you find yourself in, the “silver lining” is that once you learn to recognize when your attacks are coming on, you can find ways to naturally stop them, and get the relief that you so desperately need. Don’t let fear control you. It’s understandable that you would want to avoid a panic attack at all costs. Who wouldn’t? But it’s equally important not to let fear control your life. For example, don’t avoid places where you’ve had panic attacks in the past. If you have one, stay where you are, assuming it’s a safe and neutral spot. When the attack is over, you will realize that nothing terrible happened. Identify your feelings. When you feel a panic attack coming on, remind yourself that what you are feeling are feelings of anxiety, and not real physical danger. You can even try directly addressing the fear. Practice a go-to response like, “I am not afraid” or “This pandemic will soon pass.” Don’t Distract As tempting as it may be to try to focus your mind elsewhere, the healthiest way to deal with a panic attack is to acknowledge it in the present. Try not to fight your symptoms. Keep reminding yourself that they will pass. Practice Deep Breathing A panic attack may make you take quick, shallow breaths, so it’s important get your breathing under control. Close your eyes. Put your hand between your bellybutton and the bottom of your ribs. Inhale through your nose slowly and deeply. Then, let all that air out gently through your mouth. You will feel the hand on your belly rise and fall. If it helps, you can count from 1 to 5 on each inhale and exhale. After a few minutes, you should start to feel better. Play with Your Senses Notice five things you can see around you. Then, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, followed by one thing you can taste. When you stay grounded in what’s going on around you, it gives your mind something better to do than focus on real/imagined fear, or bounce from one worry to the next. Practice the H.A.L.T. Approach H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired — four feelings that bring out the worst in everyone. If you’re prone to panic attacks, they can turn into triggers. When symptoms pop up, check in with yourself: Am I hungry? Am I angry? Once you pinpoint what’s going on, you can take steps to fix it. Progressive Muscle Relaxation When you feel a panic attack coming on, or are actively in the middle of one, tense one muscle at a time and then relax it. Repeat this everywhere until your whole body is relaxed. You can even focus on one specific area if that is easier for you. Don’t Fuel Your attacks Panic attacks feed on thoughts of “what if.” What if I can’t do it? What if everyone laughs at me? Acknowledge that fear, then shift from “what if” to “so what?” Sometimes the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as it seems. Stay Present When fear scrambles your mind, rate it on a scale of one to 10 every few minutes. This keeps you in the present moment. It’s also a good reminder that you’re not on a 10 the whole time. Some fluctuation is quite normal. Avoid Caffeine Caffeine can make you feel nervous and shaky. While it serves to keep you awake, it can trigger tiredness later. Nicotine and alcohol can make you feel calm at first, then make you jittery as your body processes it. All three can trigger panic attacks, or make them worse. It’s best to limit them, if you can, or avoid them altogether. Get Outside Physical activity lowers stress, which is one of the main causes of panic attacks. A workout, especially the kind that gets your heart pumping, can also get you to a calmer place. Can’t work in a workout? Even a 10-minute walk outside surrounded by fresh air can help reduce the frequency and intensity of your panic attacks. Consider Yoga/Meditation Slow your body down, and your mind will follow. Practices like yoga, basic meditation, and tai chi use slow body movements that train the mind to be calm and more self aware, thus decreasing anxiety and stress levels. Panic attacks are quite scary and not easy to control in the moment you are experiencing one. In between your attacks, however, it is important to familiarize yourself with the above mind/body exercises so that next time you can stop your panic attack a lot more quickly and effectively before it gets out of control. Learn what is in your power to control, and let go of what you can’t. References: Panic attacks and panic disorder. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021 Sawchuk, C.N. (n.d.). Coping with anxiety: Can diet make a difference? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/coping-with-anxiety/faq-20057987 Are you having panic attacks? (n.d.). NHS Inform. https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/are-you-having-panic-attacks Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. (n.d.). Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety Panic Disorder. (n.d.). MentalHealth.gov. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/anxiety-disorders/panic-disorder Smith, S. (2018 April). 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. University of Rochester Medical Center. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx Silney, J. (2019). Panic Buttons: How to Stop Anxiety and Its Triggers. Additude Magazine. https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/how-to-stop-anxiety-panic/ View the full article
  9. Navigating uncharted waters during the coronavirus outbreak has challenged us all. Many Americans are familiar with “first world problems” like nabbing the best vacation deals or worrying about getting that promotion at work. But now, shuttered stores, job loss, and even restricted availability of some basic supplies is creating a startling reality. Even more daunting is the panic that wells up in your throat at night, the fears for yourself and your loved ones, and even shame over “selfish” urges to hoard as many paper products and canned goods as possible. And there is that dogged uncertainty. What news can you really trust? Are you a carrier and don’t even know it? Are you overreacting or not taking social distancing seriously enough? Routines are disrupted. Safety and a sense of normalcy seem to have disappeared. And in the midst of our own personal struggles, we know that everyone has a story to tell — a fear, a disappointment, a loss. Isolation from loved ones, loss of human contact, decimated retirement accounts, job loss, crushing boredom, the absence of physical touch, cancelled vacations, weddings and graduations, and even postponed memorial services because mourners cannot gather to grieve. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. – Plato First-world problems — once so pressing — pale in comparison to the greater need for survival — our own personal survival and that of the world around us. Like wartime survivors and refugees, we are learning to jettison the irrelevant and hold on to what is most essential. This episode in history unites the entire globe and is unique as it cannot be parsed through racist, ethnocentric or nationalistic biases. We are all in this together. How can we maintain some equilibrium as we weather this crisis? Find your “inner calm.” Whether you ascribe to the British WWII phrase, “keep calm and carry on,” or to Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation on calmness (“Breathing in, I feel calm. Breathing out I feel at ease.”), identifying what will comfort you, your children, and others around you is critical. Some find that pacing themselves, and avoiding too much news and social media is a first step. Now is the time to make room for meditation, exercise, a spiritual practice, a creative outlet, a comforting routine, and connection with loved ones (even through virtual resources), to maintain a sense of calm. Check your assumptions at the door. Your situation may be vastly different from what others are experiencing. Some without jobs are grappling with boredom and loneliness; others are working 14-hour days at medical centers or stocking grocery shelves for minimum wage. Many are grieving lost opportunities and disappointments. Others view this “pause” as a guilty pleasure, granting them time away from work or school. Don’t assume that you know what others are feeling. Ask them instead. And anger toward those who seem insensitive, who are hoarding food and supplies, and who are “out for themselves” will only make you feel worse. Try to appreciate that what seems like “selfish” behavior often stems from fear. Listen to the scientists! You may hear conflicting messages from political leaders. But the scientists and epidemiologists in charge are the voices of reason. Take their advice seriously. Tune out social media, panic-driven accounts, personal rants, and hearsay. And set aside only a small part of the day to attend to this information — a constant stream of news will merely increase anxiety. Use some of your free time (if you are not one of those front line first responders working non-stop) to self-reflect and expand your horizons. Yes, there is plenty of time for Netflix and other distractions. But using this time to engage in a creative pursuit, a household project, or personal self-improvement (such as increased exercise or an online educational class) can be beneficial. Create some structure with a daily schedule that includes exercise, enjoyable activities, a productive effort, and some spiritual/relaxing/meditation-based pursuit. And if you are busy working on the front lines, it is even more critical to find some time to relax and to pace yourself. Build your inner resources, self-compassion and strength. Now is absolutely the time to eat right, exercise, get adequate sleep, and gather wisdom from reliable sources about improving your health. If you meditate or have a spiritual practice, focus on building and supporting your own sense of strength and calmness. Remind yourself that you will get through this, that you are loved by those close to you, and that you have weathered rough times before. Find compassion for yourself, and accept that your fears are normal and understandable; however, they are thoughts and feelings that do not have to control you. There are a range of meditations apps and programs that can offer support during this difficult time, such as those from meditation experts Kristin Neff and Tara Brach. Engage in empathy and compassionate acceptance for others. Yes, you might not agree with some of our political leaders. Yes, you might feel angry about other people’s decisions. But everyone is scared right now, and the more you tap into your deep well of empathy and compassion, the calmer you will feel. For every disappointment, there have been a wealth of stories highlighting others’ kindness and generosity — closed businesses that continue to pay their employees, neighbors helping neighbors, donations to food banks. Isolation, blame, scapegoating and bitterness will not get us through this and should not be our legacy. Connection and compassion will help us endure. Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. – Dalai Lama XIV View the full article
  10.  It’s often said that fear is the most dangerous virus on the planet. While a relatively small percentage of people will contract the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, the fear it provokes will chip away at the mental health of nearly everyone who hears about it. So why does COVID-19 inspire so much fear when there are other diseases lurking in the shadows? And what can we do about it? In today’s podcast, our guest Dr. David Batman, a registered medical practitioner in the U.K., discusses how this high level of unprecedented global panic is being intensified by the non-stop media, and specifically, social media. Tune in to hear a great discussion on how we can protect our mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘David Batman- Coronavirus’ Podcast Episode Dr. David Batman has been a registered medical practitioner for 47 years and a Consultant in Occupational Medicine for 30 years. He spent 20 years as Head of Occupational Health, Safety and Employee Wellbeing for Nestle in the UK and Ireland and has special interests in mental health at work, risk assessments, rehabilitation and resettlement of employees. He specializes in advising on lifestyle preventative approaches to medicine, developing resilience, and management of mental health issues. Dr. Batman previously served as Chief Medical Officer for Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) and is now a valued member of the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board. 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 ‘David Batman- Coronavirus’ 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: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today we have Dr. David Batman. Dr. Batman has been a registered medical practitioner in the U.K. for over 40 years. He spent 20 years as head of occupational health, safety and employee well-being for Nestle in the UK and Ireland and has a special interest in mental health, at work, risk assessments, rehabilitation and resettlement of employees. Dr. Batman, welcome to the show. Dr. David Batman: Happy to be here. Great to be able to participate. Gabe Howard: Today, we are going to cover the COVID-19 pandemic that is on everyone’s mind. Specifically the mental health aspects. People are worried and that’s not just people with anxiety or mental health issues. Everyone is worried globally. Dr. David Batman: I would agree with you on that, Gabe. I mean, I’ve been practicing medicine for 47 years. I have seen cases of malaria and rabies. I’ve helped businesses through avian flu, SARS, MERS. But in all my years, I’ve never seen anything that’s come on with this rapidity, severity worldwide. At the same time, and even as we talk, research is going on and we’re learning something new about it. I mean, it’s fascinating, but it’s rare that I’ve seen that look of fear on so many people’s faces. There’s a commonality here. It’s one thing that has actually brought humanity together across the world. So I’m hoping that when we get through this, and we will, something different will come out of this and possibly some real benefits. Gabe Howard: Well, I certainly like that you’re looking on the bright side. You know, the phrase every cloud has a silver lining. I certainly hope will apply. But let’s talk about how quickly COVID-19 is evolving because people are feeling overwhelmed by just the disease in general. But the amount of information that is being shared, it’s coming out so incredibly rapidly. And I know that we in the best of times struggle to find reliable sources of information. What are reliable sources that you recommend people follow to stay ahead with factual information? Dr. David Batman: I just have been through various things over my career. This is different, and I think the difference here and you’ve hit it on the nail on the head is the visibility of it through the media and not just standard media and mainly social media, which is which has caused the biggest difference in the past. We’ve had outbreaks of disease. When the news outlets were slow to get it to us, we had time to digest. This has been fast. I’ve been practicing mental health. I’m looking at people, mental health for many years now. And the common thread has been over the last eight to 10 years, a level of distrust and uncertainty. That’s been the new norm, the new stress. So why should we now suddenly start to trust what our medical profession, our leaders are saying when we’ve had all this level of distrust before? The social media has taken over and it’s catastrophized it. It is creating that fear. And I will say at this stage, I think it is a nasty illness. But for 90 percent of the people, you’re going to have a fairly mild illness. You might have a bad time of flu. But you are going to come out the other side. And we’ve forgotten that fact. We don’t talk about that enough. It’s catastrophized. None of us can give absolute reassurance. Some people will die. There’s no doubt about that. There’s just an unfortunate fact of life. Balanced against the number of people who die from flu, 650,000 people a year died from flu. In the states, every 30 seconds, somebody dies of a heart related condition, etc. Life comes to an end for some people, unfortunately. But this is very public and I think that’s the big difference. It’s very public now. Now, to me, sources I invariably go to is certainly the Center for Disease Control in the States, the CDC, a great source of information that. I go to the World Health Organization’s Web site and they are a wealth of information. Dr. David Batman: Some here in the U.K., I look at Public Health England. Certainly, within the Virgin Pulse family that we’ve got, we’ve got a fabulous platform. We’ve developed a tool kit which is educational, it’s supportive, it’s resource heavy. You have experts like myself and others who are scientifically based, who are giving the right information. Johns Hopkins University has got a very good Web site. They’ve got a dashboard that one can look at which shows the evolving pattern of the disease and the numbers of diseases. Again, I’m going to give a degree of caution here to people. Because, the numbers, you know, if you look at death rates and that’s what people worry about most, quite catastrophic. The problem is here, we actually really don’t know the absolute numbers of people infected. We only know the number of cases who have actually been admitted to a hospital. So for the vast majority of people having this mild illness, etc., it doesn’t need reporting. And they self distance, they self isolate, they work at home, et cetera. We actually don’t have accurate data. But what we do know is it’s across every country in the world and it’s very visible. The science is developing. What I talk about today may be different tomorrow or the day after because the amount of research that’s going on is developing worldwide very fast. So sometimes what is right now is not right tomorrow. But I will say people really limit the amount of exposure that you’ve got through the media and to social media. Gabe Howard: It’s really interesting that you said that we should limit our access to information. And I understand that from like a logical perspective because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. And one of the things that you just said is that things are changing so rapidly and especially in America, we don’t like it when things change. And whenever somebody changes their opinion or their mind or the idea, you know, we call them flip floppers and we say that you can’t trust them because they can’t make up their mind. Again, speaking purely to my American audience, if you say something on Monday, you get new information on Tuesday and you update that opinion on Wednesday. We don’t like that. We want people to get it right the first time. Which, of course, is impossible, especially when something is changing so rapidly as this. Can you talk to us about that for a moment? Because I I have a feeling that the majority of people listening to this, they’re not going to stop watching the news even though they should. Dr. David Batman: Yeah, the habits die hard, don’t they? It’s what I was talking on a webinar earlier today and we talked about why people were struggling to just regularly wash their hands, or to change their position of coughing and sneezing into the elbow rather than the hand, etc. We’ve all got these learned behaviors which are hard to break. And to break and create a new habit takes an average 60 days. You’ve got to decide why you want to do it. You’ve got to go through a contemplative stage. You’ve got to go through an assessment stage. It’s very difficult to be doing that. The world of medicine, most people tend to think of medicine, this is clearly part of it, as a science whereby we know everything and it is factual. In fact, medicine is more of an art and it is a developing art and there are different opinions from different experts. I’ve always quoted that if you put ten doctors in a room, you’ll probably get eleven answers because one will change their mind halfway through. And that’s what we’ve gone through. But because of the fear factor, because of the exposure, mainly on social media, this is sort of a death sentence, almost an apocalyptic scenario that’s coming to my village, my town, my state any minute now. And people find it very hard to accept and even the medical profession is asking the questions that your listeners are asking as well. And I think part of the realization has got to be that we are trying to give you as much information as possible, but literally we can be contradicted by something new coming in all the time. We’ve got a real conundrum here, but it’s really trying to create a paradigm shift in thinking and results. It’s only when we’ve actually crossed through this pandemic. And we will. I keep going back to your listeners, we will get through it. So only when we get back that we will learn. We’re not very good at learning from history, but we’ve got to learn from this. Gabe Howard: Now, let’s flip the other way. We have a huge swath of the population that understands how serious this is because it is serious, but we also have a large portion of the population, again, especially in America, that really feel strongly that this is a hoax, that we’re overreacting, that this is no worse than the flu, that everybody’s gone mad. And this is all just an attempt to cover something up politically. What can we say to those folks? Because the fact is this is serious. I want to make that very, very clear. But I also sort of understand, again, especially in America, why people might think that we are overreacting, especially when they’re faced with, well, their routines being shut down. You know, here in Ohio, for example, where I’m from, we can’t even go to a restaurant or get a drink at like McDonald’s or meet at the local bar and throw darts or play pool to assuage our stress. So this really is allowing that other side to really fester. What can we say to that group? Dr. David Batman: The problem is, I think at the moment, it doesn’t matter which country you go to is the political and economic situation in the early part of the spread of this, trying to protect companies, trying to protect countries, economies, et cetera, on the basis that we don’t want anything to happen. But now there is stark reality that no matter what you do, and it’s not their fault. At this moment in time, we didn’t know what was happening, clearly. They tried to give the best information, but they’ve got to have the trust, as we said. You’ve got to give as much information as you can because it has got to be accurate and it has to be consistent. Now, it’s hard to give that consistent information at the moment, it is variable, clearly, based on the way this disease is progressing. Now, I think part of the problem is it started in China and there’s always been sort of a level of distrust of that part of the world as to whether news is being suppressed and what’s actually happening. But when I look at the data and what’s happened, and the W.H.O. has actually had a delegation within the country. So the data and the information I’m getting, I trust now. Is that the measures that they put in worked, but they seemed to a lot of people very simplistic because we’re used to getting a disease, seeing a doctor, having it removed surgically or getting a treatment, then that’s all we need to do. But it’s very clear from watching out in China that data, they only had one new case yesterday. And you think of the thousands that they were having. Dr. David Batman: And what they did was to put in containment, to break the transmission, to break the thread. Well, that’s hard for people to do it, but they have a population that actually listens. And because of the way that culture has grown, they comply 100 percent. We’re in a culture in the Western world where if somebody said to us, we are now contain and quarantine a city, a state, we are going to close borders of countries, that’s alien to our thought processes. And the message has never come across that first of all, that diseases need to be contained. We need to stop the transmission from person, from family to family, group to group, which is why we’re having to get into that and to do it. And therefore, we’re having to be fairly draconian to do that. And we don’t know how long that’s going to last. So there’s a conundrum here. I keep going back to we’ve never met before. There’s no playbook for this. There’s no way that we can go back and look at the score as to how it happened before. There isn’t one. We’re in a new play. We don’t know how many acts there are going to be. And we don’t know when the final curtain is gonna come down. So it’s very hard to put this into context, but it will be. People have got to have a belief in that at the moment. But there will be an end point and the vast majority of people are going to come through with this. This is the way it’s going to be. Gabe Howard: We will be right back after these messages. Sponsor Message: Hey folks, Gabe here. I host another podcast for Psych Central. It’s called Not Crazy. He hosts Not Crazy with me, Jackie Zimmerman, and it is all about navigating our lives with mental illness and mental health concerns. Listen now at Psych Central.com/NotCrazy or on 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 the COVID-19 pandemic and managing our mental health with Dr. David Batman. We’ve talked a lot about the uncertainty, we’ve talked a lot about the things that we’ve lost. We’ve talked a lot about the fear. Let’s talk about some positive steps forward. What are some simple well—being activities that people can add into their day to keep them feeling positive and energized and keep good health habits on the top of their minds? In the midst of all this chaos and closure? Dr. David Batman: Doctors are not always good at taking good medical advice, but I’ve always been a believer that 70% of your risk of becoming ill, 70% of your ability to actually get a cure and survive is due to lifestyle. And I believe this is all about lifestyle. Well, let me just give you examples of what I’m doing now. Because I’m approaching 70 next week, in this country, the edict from the U.K. government is now I’ve got to self isolate for the next four months. That’s a daunting figure. But I’ve got myself into a mindset now that says if I can’t change my circumstances, I’m going to change my attitude. And that’s sort of a banner that I keep putting out to people. So first of all, I’ve got myself a routine. I’m still working. I’m working from home. My sleep pattern is, sleep, the most important thing, probably one of the biggest risk factors we’ve got is lack of sleep. I will still go to bed at the same time. I still wake up at the same time. I set a routine that we can do. So that gets up. I still get washed and I get dressed into work wear, I’m not swimming around in my p.j.’s, etc. Dr. David Batman: I’ve got my work set out. I’ve told my family that I need quiet time as to what I’m going to do. I’m exercising. I can go out and exercise as long as I’m six foot away from anybody else. I have a step counter. I’m still getting a thousand steps a day. I’m eating well, I’m drinking well, I’m getting plenty of fluids. And on the fluids side, a bit of research came out yesterday from a Japanese doctor, that said, this virus is sticky. If you’ve got a dry mouth and a dry throat, it sticks in your mouth, then it crawls its way down into your lungs. If you’re drinking all the time, the virus gets stuck into the fluid, gets washed into your stomach and the acid destroys it. So simple there. Don’t resort to alcohol to console it. Don’t resort to too much smoking too much alcohol, etc. My wife and I, she’s got the things that she does. I’ve got the things that I do. We have the things together. Because the danger is if you can come together with a partner 24/7, you’ve got nothing different to talk about. We can’t go out for a meal anymore. We’re gonna plan how we can have some special meals at home, etc. Dr. David Batman: I’m communicating with my children, with my grandchildren, a lot more through Skype, through Facebook and through WhatsApp, and we’re doing that a lot more. So, I’ve got an outlook with the outside world. Within our community here, we’ve got a community app that we set up. We set up, and I’m helping them do, even though I’m here at home. We’ve got volunteers to help the elderly, the infirm, to get their food, to get their medicines. I feel as if I’m contributing, even though I’m isolating at the same time. All about lifestyle. I have limited, really do limit the amount of time I look on social media, maybe once, maybe twice a day, if I’m being honest into that area. I’m not getting the negative news. I’m looking at the positive news. But, my life goes on. I’ve got a to do list. I want to redesign my garden. So I’m going to do that. I’ve got some books I’ve always wanted to read. I’ve put time aside to read those, etc. It’s about positivity. What you’ve lost is your freedom a little bit at the moment. You can do so much, but it really is about I can’t change my circumstances. I’m isolated, but I can change my attitude. Gabe Howard: I could not agree with that more, and I do think that a positive approach is very beneficial and I like what you said about we’re just not used to this, it really does show how much we take all of our freedoms for granted. Every morning I wake up and I flip the light switch in my bedroom. And I’ve got to tell you, every time I flip that switch, the light comes on. Ninety nine point nine nine percent of the time. But every now and again, I flip that switch and the light doesn’t come on and all I think of is, oh, how could this happen? What horrible luck. This is just terrible. So it really does show you it doesn’t matter how often something works. We really, really only focus on that one time that it doesn’t. Well, this is an extreme example of that. I really do think this is what’s happening to many of us. We’ve just really taken for granted how much we have on our normal day to day lives. And it’s become apparent to us now that so much of it is missing. Dr. David Batman: I think you’re right on that. I think there’s a new norm that’s coming in. I think, I’m seventy in two weeks time. My wife and I have been planning for a year to go on a trip of a lifetime. But what it turns out is that trip of a lifetime was next Friday. We were due to go on a cruise around Japan. And yes, I’m sure you and your listeners can guess which cruise ship my wife had booked a cabin on. It was that floating petri dish; it was one of the big ones in the news with a floating liner in Japan. We looked forward to that. But at the same time, it’s gone. There’s no point dwelling in the past. The future will be there. It will be different. But people have been through transitions before. The world’s been through transitions and the world will sort it out. And I think at the moment, all we can do is trust the science. Trust the medics and indeed, accept that the change that is going on is developing. It’s not in any of my textbooks. It’s not anywhere on the Internet. As I said, there’s no playbook for this, and we’re going to have to ride through it. But there’s going to be an outcome. Gabe Howard: And whatever that outcome is, we’re all going to arrive there together. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about your Coronavirus Toolkit for Employee Wellbeing. Can you tell us what that is and who it applies to? Dr. David Batman: I’ve worked for the Virgin Pulse platform now probably for 12 years, et cetera, on our platform, and we believe in lifestyle change and what we are looking for is sustained behavioral change. It’s science based and what we, the aim is to empower people. We give people support for their mental health. We put mental health on the agenda. Financial help. We got counselors that can help. But suddenly realized we’re a different world here. And therefore, for the people who are part of our family, we thought we need to help them. And the one thing, again I come back to this and you alluded to it right at the beginning, where do we get sustained information that we can rely on? Everything that we put together, we’ve got a science advisory board, which I’m part of, therefore, everything is science based. And that’s when we said, well, what do people need? So we’ve got on that platform that people get access to it, we’ve actually got how can you keep your workforce motivated? Engaged in times of disruption, etc.? We’ve got the tipsheets, you know, tipsheets on how, we literally created one all about working from home. So how can you go into that new world of work where home has become the norm for work? Are we are giving you some healthy tips which know how they will work, etc. We’ve got a resource guide. We’ve got some prevention posters there, etc. as well. So it’s a myriad of things which are designed for employer and employee. What it is, is about getting consistent, scientifically based advice and that advice will change as the situation changes. We’re all working incredibly hard behind the scenes to make sure that this is consistent and correct and up to date, et cetera, providing both the employer and the employee with resources. So you don’t have to go to reinvent the wheel every time. Gabe Howard: And where can our listeners find that tool kit right now? Dr. David Batman: People will go on to the Virgin Pulse website, et cetera, and it’s linked there. We are putting it out whenever we are putting out our white papers, our information sheets. I have been working with one with one of my colleagues earlier on today, doing a webinar and a Q&A on that. And we will launch that with the link to that. We will use every opportunity to disseminate that to give people help. And yes, we share it with the businesses who are engaged with us there. But we also will put it through the links. It’s a myriad of things. It’s interactive. It’s moving with the time. Gabe Howard: That’s wonderful, and of course, we will also put that link in our show notes over on PsychCentral.com so people can find it really, really easily. We’re nearing the end of our time. Dr. Batman. My final question is to kind of summarize this all up. What specific recommendations do you have for people adapting to this new time of uncertainty to get us through the next several weeks and and potentially several months? Dr. David Batman: I know people feel anxious and fearful all the time. But I say to everybody, when you look at people walking around, people have got this public face where everybody on the surface, it’s a bit like a swan glides over the surface, but the feet are paddling like mad underneath. We’re all together. This is one of the few things across the world which is actually bringing people together. We’re all feeling the same way. We’re all feeling screwed up this time. We’re probably not sleeping well. We’re anxious. We don’t know what the future holds for ourselves and our families. Don’t be afraid. Ninety percent of you are going to go through this and you may have a mild illness to a moderate illness. You’re going to come through this. There is no treatment. You’ve just got to go through it. We will get a vaccine. It’s probably a year out before we’re going to get that vaccine. There’s no medication at the moment. Some may come along. The most important thing is listen to what the public health people are telling us. Social isolation. Distance yourself. Break those contacts from one person to the other. Six feet is a good distance. The isolation that we’re going to put people into, the closing of schools and offices, etc., is vital. Please listen to what the medics are saying. Listen to what our public health is saying. These are so vital. There is no magic treatment that will make a difference. You as individuals can make a difference not only to yourself. Your family, your community, your country, your country needs you. It’s been said before, but we need all to come together collectively by individual actions because nobody can do it for us. Gabe Howard: And of course, I just want to echo what you said there, that we’re all in this together and that we will get through this together and that it really just is simply a matter of hunkering down and waiting it out and remembering that it’s one day at a time and we will all get there together. Dr. David Batman: I totally agree, Gabe. It’s been a real pleasure to be able to actually come on in and talk to yourself and talk to your listeners, and hopefully we will take away some of that anxiety, that fear. Gabe Howard: I cannot agree more, Dr. Batman, and thank you for being here and thank you to our listeners for being here. I know this is a time of uncertainty, so I hope that you will find the information that you can find on PsychCentral.com very, very beneficial. There are lots of other resources that you can check out. Just head over to PsychCentral.com and you’ll see it all there. And remember, wherever you downloaded the show, we’d like you to subscribe. We’d like you to rate, rank, and review. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We will see everybody next week. Please stay well. 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. View the full article
  11.  How are you handling the coronavirus pandemic? Most people are struggling right now, but for those of us with mental illness, these days can feel truly overwhelming. Fear, depression, isolation and loss of routine are just a few of the difficulties many of us are facing. In today’s podcast, Gabe and Jackie discuss what we can do right now to make things just a little better, and they share their personal hopes and fears for humanity once this pandemic subsides. You’re not alone — we’re all in this together. Join us for an important discussion on how we can handle this time of fear and uncertainty. (Transcript Available Below) SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW 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. Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare, and patient community building. She lives with multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and depression. You can find her online at JackieZimmerman.co, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Computer Generated Transcript for “Coronavirus- Mental Health” 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 Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard. Gabe: Hey, everyone, welcome to the Not Crazy podcast. I would like to introduce my co-host, Jackie. Jackie: And you already know my co-host, Gabe. Gabe: And we are practicing social distancing, so much so that I am in Ohio and Jackie is in Michigan. Jackie: It’s kind of our natural state. Most of the time, I mean, candidly, this is kind of my natural state in life in general most of the time is social distancing. But normally I at least have the option to go somewhere if I want to. Gabe: So let’s talk about a few things when it comes to COVID-19 or coronavirus, because there’s a lot to talk about when we’re talking about our mental health and a pandemic. On one hand, like this is what we’ve all been worried about, like it’s here. All of my anxiety and paranoia and the world going to hell and me freaking out like it’s now happening. Like it’s here. Jackie, it’s here. Jackie: Yeah, I know. I am aware. Gabe: And you have it worse than me. I’m not trying to play the suffering Olympics with you, but my anxiety disorder is at like a level 10. My routines are blocked because restaurants are closed and movie theaters are closed and I can’t go do anything. But listen, my immune system, it’s solid. Like for real. Whenever I hear the news, they’re like, you have nothing to worry about unless you’re immunocompromised or old. And I’m like, hey, despite Jackie calling me Grandpa Gabe my immune system is fine and I ain’t old. Jackie: True story. I am not old either, but I do have a pretty, pretty not great immune system. Gabe: You’re immunocompromised. Jackie: Yeah. I’m on immunosuppressive drugs right now. So in addition to that, plus more that I’ve been reading, some of my past medical history also makes me kind of extra susceptible despite, or in in conjunction with being on immunosuppressants. Gabe: I want to ask you a question, Jackie, like as a person, when you hear on the news and in the media. Actually, fuck the news and the media. They always suck. When you see on social media, like your friends and family, people that you love, people that you still love to this day type “Oh, why is everybody freaking out of coronavirus? It’s only got a 1 percent or a 2 percent death rate. And it’s only going to get you if you’re older, immunocompromised.” Like that’s you. And you’re seeing them be so dismissive of the fact that you’re in the death pool. And they just. I’m not saying that they don’t care because that’s not what it is. They don’t realize it. But but how does that impact you? Jackie: So, honestly, I haven’t seen a lot of that on my personal feeds because I don’t spend my time with dumb dumbs that, you know, ignore science and news and things, but that’s all over Twitter like everywhere basically. And I’m not taking as much offense to it as I think most chronic illness people are right now. But it’s more or less like I think the people in my life forget that I’m in the high-risk category because I don’t act sick and I don’t often remind them that I am sick because I’m doing quite well right now. Like, for instance, my mom took an unnecessary weekend trip last weekend and she had a good reason for doing it. It was to help her cope with something, but it still felt very selfish to me. And I was kind of upset with her because I feel like she’s being wildly irresponsible. And I eventually had to say to her Mom, you know, that I’m in the high risk category. Right? Like, you know, that this is me we’re talking about, because it just felt like she just forgot. And I asked her, she didn’t forget. That’s not the case. But it’s a little bit of — I just think people are overlooking people in their lives that may be in this category. And 50 percent of the fucking population has a chronic illness, which means 50 percent of the population are likely to be treated by something like an immunosuppressant. So the idea of dismissing that many people is pretty ridiculous. That’s kind of what upsets me the most. It’s not me personally. It’s just like no one knows who has chronic illness. And it’s a spoiler alert. Most fucking people. So, yes, that part upsets me. Gabe: Well, to clarify, you’re not saying that most people have a chronic illness because most people don’t. Most people are healthy. That’s why we need mental health and health advocacy, because most people just don’t understand what we go through at all. They see things through the lens of their experience, which is not not us. They’re like, oh, we’re fine. So we assume you’re fine, too, when in reality we’re not fine at all. Jackie: We’re not. I mean, most, I guess, is not the right answer, but it is like 50 percent of the fucking population, whether that be diabetes or, you know, fibromyalgia or lupus or some of these things that people hear their friends and family having but don’t quite lump them in the chronic illness category. Everyone knows someone who’s chronically ill right now. Everybody does. So kind of dismissing someone that, you know, in your life is completely ridiculous. Gabe: Obviously, we know why you’re panicked, because you’re in the high-risk category and I know why I’m panicked, because all of these closures to protect the people in the high-risk category, they’re just messing with me. They’re messing with me. I don’t I don’t like my routines to be messed with at all. Like, I’m I’m a very, very big creature of habit. But let’s move all this aside and talk about the sort of the dismissiveness, the well, only 2 percent will die. Well, 2 percent is like a huge fucking number. I can’t sort of wrap my mind around that. And I think that’s one of the things that’s really upsetting people in our community. Jackie, that when did two percent become a low number? If I handed you a hundred Skittles and I told you that two of those Skittles would kill you, you’d not eat the Skittles. There is nobody within the sound of my voice that is like, oh, if you gave me a bag of 100 Skittles and two of them would kill me instantly, I’d still grab a handful. The odds are forever in my favor. No. Nobody would. I think that maybe we have just a disproportionate understanding of odds. But more importantly, I think that we have a disproportionate understanding that death is permanent. Maybe? And this is causing our population and many of our listeners an extreme amount of anxiety because they’re constantly being calmed down — I’m making air quotes — calmed down with things that aren’t very calming. Do you find it calming to know that the COVID-19 coronavirus only has a two percent death rate? Does that make Jackie Zimmerman feel better? Jackie: No, it doesn’t at all, because one, I mean, if we’re getting into stats, which I love, we don’t actually have accurate stats. We don’t have enough tests to be tested. We don’t have enough results from the ones that are currently out in processing. We don’t even have an accurate number of people who are going to hospitals because now we’re telling people not even to go to hospitals. But back to your point of only 2 percent, 2 percent of the whole world is a lot of fucking people. And I don’t know I don’t know how to tell people they should care about other people. But when 5,000 people die in less than a month for something that could be prevented if we all would just stay the fuck home. That’s a big deal. Those are 5,000 people. They have families, they have children, they have jobs. They contribute to the world. Why don’t they matter? Why don’t people matter to other people? Gabe: I want to just say because they don’t realize it. I think that we’re really seeing play out across the world. I mean, literally across the world that the majority of people are healthy. The majority of people’s immune systems do what it’s supposed to do. And the majority of people believe that this will not impact them. And here’s the kicker. They’re right. The majority of people are right. And this is why we have health advocates. Right? This is this is our job, Jackie. Our show would not need to exist if people just understood that small percentages of the population suffer from things that the majority of the population doesn’t. We’re great examples of this. You do not have bipolar Jackie, and my butt works just fine. But we can still be decent to each other. And it’s interesting to watch the world grapple with this. I wish it was a petri dish and was just a social experiment and there wasn’t real lives at stake because it’s fascinating. It’s fascinating to watch the group that has politicized it. It’s fascinating to watch the group that has monetized it. It’s fascinating to watch the group that is ignoring it. And it’s fascinating watching the group that is terrified of it all interact with each other. But all of that tied back. It doesn’t matter which group you’re in. How do you get through it? Jackie, you’ve hid in your house. But what about the people who can’t hide in their house? Jackie: Honestly, I don’t find this fascinating. I’m pissed off. I’m mad because I see people who are like, oh, I got a really cheap flight to Florida next week, I’m gonna take a vacation and I’m like, what the fuck is wrong with you? Because of all those people who don’t have the choice to hunker into their house like I do, I can choose to literally socially isolate for the rest of my life if I wanted to. I have a lot of privilege in that area. The people who have to continue to go into the world, who have to work with your dirty germy ass, don’t have that option. Like right now, going out into the world is the equivalent of coughing in somebody’s face. It’s rude and it’s wrong and it causes problems and can cause death among a bunch of people. I’m mad about this. I’m very clearly upset about this. Gabe: So what’s your next move? Because you can’t just be pissed off for the next several days, several weeks, several months. It’s not mentally healthy for you. I understand why you are. I do. But this isn’t good for us. It’s not it’s not good for us. We cannot have this level of emotion and anxiety and anger for the next several months. It will eat us alive. Jackie: You’re right. And I’m really worked up right now because we’re talking about how stupid people are, but what I’m finding is really happening with me. And I think with a lot of people that I’m seeing online is that we’re all kind of swaying in between, really nervous, really upset, really scared to like, well, but we’re supposed to kind of act as though life is normal. We’re just doing everything at home. So my brain is kind of confused between this is normal. I work from home every day. Everything is fine, to, like, oh, but we’re in the middle of a huge fucking pandemic. Don’t freak out. And I am exhausted. I am fucking exhausted. I’m emotionally exhausted all the time. Right now, every day is different. Every day feels like a fucking week. So now I’m just like exhausted in every meeting. And all I want to do is like take a nap or watch a movie. But I can’t. And it’s this really fucked up place where I’m trying to be very aware of my privilege and be grateful for what I do have right now. But emotionally and mentally, I just want to like forget about it for like twenty minutes. Gabe: I understand what you’re saying about privilege, but I’m gonna be selfish. I’m just gonna be extraordinarily selfish. I understand there is a larger discussion that needs to be had here about where Gabe is on the spectrum of worry, etc. But I kind of don’t care about that right now. Right now what I care about is that my routine has been decimated. Like these coping skills, these routines have been cultivated over years. When people say things like, wow, Gabe manages bipolar disorder better than anybody I know. Wow. Gabe manages panic attacks better than anybody I know. Yeah, I take full credit for that because I’ve worked so very, very, very hard. And with one brush of the world, literally the world at this point that’s gone. I wake up in the morning and I can’t go get my Diet Coke and I hear what you’re saying. You’re like, really, Gabe? You’re willing to kill people to get that Diet Coke? Yeah, maybe. Maybe. I know how that sounds. I do. Jackie: But you don’t really mean it, though. Gabe: I don’t think I do. But like remember, how you said about feelings? My feeling when I wake up in the morning is you need to go. Gabe, put on your clothes and go. You’ve been awake now for 10 minutes. The dog has been fed. The dog is out. You need to leave. My entire body, my brain, my feelings, my gut, my lodge. Everything is screaming at you have to! And then I can’t. I understand. I do. But it’s just like in a panic attack where you think the world is going to end and the world’s not going to end. Except that I’m not having a panic attack. Actually, this has caused a panic attack every single morning. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. Jackie: I don’t want to discount your feelings at all. They’re super valid. And you’re right. Especially for people living with mental illness, routines are the core of keeping everybody like all your shit together. But all I think about is like, OK, what about the Gabes of the world right now that also works in food service or that works somewhere that just lost their job? Like what does that Gabe do? And I know you’re out there. I know you might be listening and I keep thinking about that. That’s why I keep trying to check myself with, like, my gratitude. We thought Adam was going to lose his job this week. Last week, we’re like, we’re fine. Everything’s gonna be OK. And then all of a sudden, it was almost, almost gone. It’s not. But we were that close. And all I keep thinking about is the people who are choosing to stay home with their kids or go to work because they can’t work from home and they don’t have paid sick time. And everybody who just has no choice in this matter. The only silver lining to all of this that I have found and it’s not even a good one. The only one that I have found is that this is the whole world. It’s not just like, you know, Detroit is having a recession right now or Ohio is suffering from a tornado or something. The whole world. So it is the first time it really feels like we’re kind of all in it together, like humankind for once. And I don’t know if that makes it feel better, but at least just makes me feel some type of way. Gabe: We’ll be right back 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. Jackie: And we’re back talking about how to keep it together during the coronavirus pandemic. Gabe: The Internet has been a blessing and a curse through all of this. And I want to talk about that for a moment, because we’ve certainly talked about the assholes on social media — the people who have politicized it, who have minimized it, who have insulted people, they. I can’t help but think of the anti-vaxxers in a time like this. And I’m just like, wow, you guys are trying to do this with the measles. There’s also this part of my brain that’s like, wow, everybody says, listen to the government, listen to the Center for Disease Control. They will help us get through this. Except the Center for Disease Control also says vaccinate your kids. And then we think they’re idiots. So it’s hard not to fall down that rabbit hole. But I’ve said it. We’re not going to talk about anymore. What I want to talk about is like all the people reaching out. I saw this incredible thing. I don’t know how it works because I just saw it this morning. But you can watch a Netflix movie on Google like it’s a Google Chrome extension. So you and your friends can all watch the same movie at the exact same time when you all pause at the same time. Gabe: You can chat to each other. So literally, you can all watch a movie all over the country in your homes, all together, and you can still have a movie night. It excites me because I’m looking to the future. And you talked about that silver lining. There are a lot of people with mental illness and mental health issues who feel isolated. They’re just are. And they’re gonna feel isolated next year at this time when we’ve all forgot about the coronavirus and now they’re going to be able to find a tribe online and be able to watch a movie, even though the person that they’re friends with is one thousand miles away or even one hundred miles away or even five miles away. But nobody has a car right now. That’s like a real thing in our community. Right? I am hoping that some of this stuff does stick around and that maybe some of my depressed, anxiety-ridden friends will be able to, like, chill and have movie nights together, even though nobody has gas money. Jackie: I have seen some really, truly amazing things happening in my local community from food for kids, for poor people who are low income, for the elderly, people willing to do grocery shopping for other people. It just seems like endless amounts of support. I saw somebody buy an upgraded zoom package and post in a group like anybody who needs this, feel free to use it. Just. There is an overwhelming amount of generosity right now, even from large corporations to a certain extent where I’m like, okay, but where was this before the whole world tanked? But I digress. I do feel like there has been a little bit of a resurgence in humanity towards other people for the most part. I can’t say that I’m super confident that it’s going to last into the future. I worry that in a month. Let’s hope a month. Let’s be positive and say a month that when everybody kind of recovers, let’s say six months when this is like way in our past, we’ll just go back to business as usual and we’ll forget who the low man on the totem pole is because we don’t care about them and we won’t give any shits about the stockers at the grocery store. And we definitely will not care about the baristas at the coffee shop anymore. I don’t think that we are good enough as living beings to really learn from this. And that makes me really, really sad because we knew this was a possibility. And I just don’t think we’re smart enough to really learn from it. Gabe: There’s a line in Men in Black that I’m gonna butcher because I always butcher my quotes, but it basically says that a person is intelligent. But people are fools. People are crazy and they overreact. It’s mob mentality, right? I want to say to you, Jackie, and I want to say to all of our listeners right now, I don’t think that people will learn from it. I think that you’re right. Hey, what am I supposed to do? I want my team to win, but I don’t think it’s gonna. But I’m telling you, there are people who will learn from this. There are people who will come out better and there are people who will be nicer to the barista, who will understand why this is important. And it might be enough to shift. It just might. Look, bipolar disorder knocked me on my ass. Gabe Howard would not be here if I did not get sick. If I didn’t get sick, try to end my life, end up in an insane asylum. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It turned me from a person that thought, hey, I want to be rich to a person who thought, wow, I don’t want anybody to go through this. Now, I’m not telling you that I had some big hallmark moment where at the beginning of the movie I only drove a Mercedes. Right? I wasn’t a complete dick beforehand, but I learned a lot about the desire to help others. And I understand your pessimism because you’re playing the odds. You’re saying that more people will remain jerks than will become kind. Yeah, you’re right. But I believe that we are going to see a significant uptick in kindness. And I believe that that will have incredible ramifications across the globe. And that’s what I’m banking on. Jackie: Ok. OK. When you put it like that, I think that you’re right, because same thing. Right. If I hadn’t gotten sick and literally almost lost my life, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today in terms of advocacy or even my career. I would literally be doing none of it. So good things do come out of tragedy. Do I think the world is going to change? No. But I am looking forward to seeing who comes up with the next greatest thing. Right? Who is the kindness king and queen who develops a great nonprofit, who starts working for social change? Like maybe our government will finally catch on to us needing better social programs. Do I think that there are still gonna be shit faced billionaires who refuse to share any of their money and a bunch of us are still going to be poor? Yes. Do I think there’s gonna be assholes who want to buy vaccines for shit like this? Yes, but I do think that you’re right. There will be good. There will be good. I just don’t know what it is and what the scale of it will be. Gabe: I always hate to say we have to think positive because I understand where you’re at, Jackie. You’re in this this pessimistic pit of can you believe we’re here? I hate everything and nothing will be good again. And I respect that. I respect the hell out of that. And I would imagine that the majority of our listeners, they agree with you and they’re like that dipshit moron is about to say something positive. And it pains me to be the positive guy, because in general, I’m a pretty pessimistic guy. The positive thing is we are in control of our own lives. We do have the ability to do with as we please. And I know that you’re like, well, but what about this, this, this, this, this, this, this? Look, there’s always a choice. I’m sorry. The choices may be shit. And I think that as a society, we need to do a better job of acknowledging that some of our choices are shit. But listen, this is not a social justice show. This is a show about managing our mental health and our mental illness. And that means our anxiety and our depression. And we do have a choice. It was a choice to listen to this podcast. It was a choice about whether or not when this podcast is over, you want to think about something positive. You want to do something positive, like call your mom or your friend or do that Netflix and Google thing that I talked about. Or if you want to Google, as soon as we hang up, is the world gonna end? And can you believe our government fucked us? That’s a choice. It’s a choice. And I think that many of us are feeding into our own anxieties, feeding into our own depression and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Internet has cat videos. Google one of them. They’re adorable. And I hate cats. I hate cats. And I went to a whole thing where I watched an hour and a half of cat videos, but I did it. Jackie: Also, for what it’s worth, there is another one on Netflix right now. Another compilation of cat videos if you’re in need of more cat videos. Gabe: Is it called Cats_the_Mewvie? Jackie: That is the one. That is the one. OK, Gabe. Gabe: And this is an option. This is sincerely an option, and that’s what I want to say. I’m not disagreeing with you, Jackie. I know that things are fucked up. I know that people are scared. But in the moment we can ramp each other up to be terrified or we can support each other in kindness. And I want to believe that while we’re going to be realistic, because this is how we feel. I feel exactly how you do. Jackie, I’m terrified. You heard my rant about not wanting to not go get a Diet Coke, even though Diet Cokes may kill people. Like that’s like a really messed up reason to want a Diet Coke, right? I get that. This is how we feel. But how can we move past this and searching out better things? Being supportive of one another, agreeing to not talk about this with our friends for at least some portion of the day? I think these are all real proactive things that we can do to help ourselves in the moment. And I’m sure that you have more. Jackie: Ok, so this is what I’m doing. First, I’m allowing myself to feel some feels almost whenever I want to. Which is not the greatest. But this is an unprecedented time in our whole life. I don’t know how to manage the feelings all the time. So I do my best. But I wake up in the morning and I do a news check because everything changes daily. So I want to know, like what’s closing down, what’s happening? Is the government closing down? Are they sending us all checks? You know, like I want to know. I get my morning dose of like what happened in the last day, because that makes me feel informed and it makes me feel like I’m getting enough information. I do my best not to keep looking. For the rest of the day. And if I feel like I need to go trolling the Internet for something to keep my brain busy, I’ll actually go into some of these community groups that I’ve seen pop up a lot looking for the good shit people are doing. The offers for helping them, the local businesses and restaurants that are giving away free food to people in the neighborhood, kind of replacing that need to gather information with information that is a feel good. Gabe: Mr. Rogers once said that when he was terrified at watching the news when something bad happened, his mom said, look for the helpers. Look for all of the people that are helping. If you have the means, and when I say when you have the means that you can think really, really small here, offer to help other people. There’s a lot of people in my neighborhood that are providing lunches to school kids that aren’t in school right now. We’re talking like five or six lunches. They have the ability to make five baloney sandwiches, get five pops, and open up a bag of chips. So I know that oftentimes we think, well, I can’t do anything to help because I don’t have a lot of money. I think there are very, very small things that we can do to help. And I’ve been really impressed with the people in my community that really are just making sack lunches. And it’s baloney. But it’s not a lot of money. And I think it’s very, very helpful to find things like that. Jackie: I’m going to give another suggestion that I would, in normal circumstances, never give. We’ve actually said it’s bullshit. So I. This is a not. These are weird times we’re in here, people. Go outside and normally take a walk is not what I would tell people. But if you’re somebody who normally leaves the house a lot and you thrive on kind of being out of the house. I’m not talking to the introverts who have a hard time leaving already. I’m talking to everybody else. Take a walk. It’s still safe to take a walk. It’s still safe to feel air to feel, sun. And I’m not saying it’s going to make anything better. This is not going to cure anything, but it definitely helps to de-stress. And I am one of those people that loves to be inside, that loves to stay in my house. I hate going into the world. I just like hate everybody. But I do feel the value in walks right now. It’s one of the only things we can do safely without feeling fear and anxiety about just doing anything like going to the grocery store is like a panic attack every time. I’m not even the one doing it. Adam’s going for us, but I still am worried. Go outside. It will be worth it. Gabe: Everybody stay safe. Love the ones you’re with. Call your mom. Call your dad. Call your grandma. Call anybody. E-mail people. One of the things that my wife and I did and I’m not making this up, please don’t laugh at us. We ran through all of the stuff to watch and we can’t go anywhere. So we played a board game. This is the first time, I think, in eight years of marriage my wife and I have ever sat down and played a board game. I gotta tell you, it was more fun than I thought. Explore some of those things that you haven’t done in a while. Listen, I never thought that I would ever tell anybody to build a puzzle. Build a puzzle. Jackie: I Gabe: It’s it’s it’s Jackie: I Gabe: Weird times, my friends. Jackie: I wrote letters to my niece and nephew, I sent them stickers that I had laying around the house. You know, it almost feels like as far in the future we are, let’s go back to the old times, like do the stuff that used to be entertaining, right? Except, you know, do a zoom call, write a letter, you know. On St. Patrick’s Day, everybody in this town was encouraged to put a shamrock in their window and kids went on shamrock hunts looking for shamrocks in the windows. We’re getting inventive. It is still possible to stay connected, to do new things, to do fun things, and to be able to clear your head in a really positive way. Again, it’s a choice, though, you have to want to. Gabe: Jackie, I couldn’t agree more, and here are some other choices that you can make. You can subscribe to our podcast wherever you downloaded the show. You can rate our podcast with as many stars as you would like. You can use your words and tell people why you like our podcast. And finally, you can share our podcast on social media. The Not Crazy podcast comes out every Monday and we hope that you love it. If you have any complaints or comments or, well, just anything you can email us at show@PsychCentral.com. And hey, if you send us your address, we’ll send you some Not Crazy stickers. Jackie: Hang in there, everyone, and we’ll see you next week. Announcer: You’ve been listening to Not Crazy 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. To work with Jackie, go to JackieZimmerman.co. Not Crazy travels well. Have Gabe and Jackie record an episode live at your next event. E-mail show@psychcentral.com for details. 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  12. As the spread of the coronavirus threatens our physical health, it is also becoming a real threat to our mental health. As Americans, it is not our norm to see our grocery store shelves empty and to be quarantined and unable to gather in large groups. When we experience real or perceived threat, our bodies react accordingly and our survival physiology kicks in, leaving us in states of “fight” and “flight.” While these states are meant for acute trauma situations to help us mobilize, in more chronic states of disruption — like the crisis we are experiencing with the coronavirus — our nervous systems become imbalanced, making it difficult to manage our emotional states. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline start pumping through our bodies. Our immune systems become compromised, making us more vulnerable to viruses and infections. Restoring our sense of safety is key to bringing our nervous system and emotions back in balance, as well as maintaining our physical health. But how do we do this in a time when socially distancing is a must and everyone around us is validating our experience of not feeling safe? There are many small steps we can take each day to stay present and connected. Restoring Our Sense of Safety As adults, the more we can regulate ourselves, the greater capacity we will have to support our loved ones. Here are five ways to stay present and restore your sense of safety during this crisis: Cultivate your news intake. During this time of social distancing and staying at home, it is easy to get caught up spending hours surfing the internet looking for information, much of which may not be based on facts. Pick two to three reputable news sources and stick with only gathering information from them. Additionally, limit your news checking to two to three times a day. Commit to finishing projects for a sense of accomplishment. Since we are being forced to stay home, use this time productively. This is a good time to organize closets, clean out your garage, or just simply conquer the many home projects you have been putting off this past year. Feeling productive and accomplished during this time will keep your mind occupied and give you a sense of purpose and well-being. Nurture safe connection. Staying connected to friends and family is crucial during a time of crisis. What we know is that when communities pull together during times of stress, they recover more easily. While this is a bit of a challenge because of social distancing, pick a few friends to stay in touch with on a regular basis. Perhaps you can set up a conference call with a few friends to check in daily or set up a group chat to stay connected, share information and daily downloads of your day and how you are keeping yourself occupied. Either way, take your safe connections and utilize them to their fullest. Make time for your children to voice their questions and fears. It is imperative that we make our children feel safe during this stressful time. Set the stage for honest and open discussions, relating the facts without causing them stress. Answer questions appropriately while doing your best to help them feel safe. Your children will only be as calm as you are yourself. Inhibit your anxiety response. When your anxiety starts creeping in, find a comfortable place in your home, ideally a space that you already find relaxing. Once you can feel your feet on the ground, begin to make the sound of “voo.” This vibrational sound provides a massage for your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve works with our autonomic nervous system and regulates many functions in our bodies, including social engagement and emotional regulation. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times. This exercise works directly to bring your nervous system back into balance. If you are feeling anxious and uncomfortable this is an opportunity to slow things down and breathe. Use this time to get in touch with your feelings and lean into them. Remember that if we can stay calm and allow ourselves to be with our emotions, we are going to keep our immune systems stronger. Our sense of community can easily get lost during a crisis. While these are trying times filled with uncertainty, remember you are not alone. If we as individuals do our part to make ourselves feel safe, we can be that much more effective in contributing to the safety of our families and communities. View the full article
  13. Like many in our community, I’m also feeling anxious and fearful of the unknowns related to the current COVID-19 crisis. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. For the next several weeks, everyone in our community will be practicing social distancing. The closure of schools, colleges, nonessential businesses, restricting gatherings, and other types of in-person interactions are efforts aimed at stopping or slowing down the spread of infectious diseases. Not surprisingly, social distancing can result in us feeling even more anxious, fearful, depressed and lonely. And those with preexisting mental health conditions might experience new or worsening symptoms since social distancing equates to less social in-person interactions, the behaviors known to improve our well being and reduce the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. So, the question is, “What can we do to address our emotional health during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Below are a few recommendations you can do immediately to support yourself and your emotional health during these stressful times: Observe and describe your emotions in a nonjudgmental way. Some people naturally run hotter than others when it comes to experiencing strong emotions like anxiety. This strategy entails observing your surroundings or circumstance and then describing your observations in words. Think along the lines of a reporter. The purpose of this technique is to help calm down strong emotions so you can think more rationally and act more skillfully. For most of us, it’s impossible to reason when we’re emotional. Have a distress tolerance plan. We’re all experiencing anxiety with today’s new realities. Having a distress tolerance plan in place for calming down strong emotions is beneficial for taking care of our emotional health. A distress plan can include making time for taking warm baths, watching funny movies, playing games on your iPhone, or exercising. These are all great ways to calm down strong emotions so our rational brains can take over. Take regular and frequent breaks from watching, reading or listening to the news. Being exposed to the news 24/7 about the pandemic is not only emotionally upsetting, but it’s also bad for our physical health. Research studies show that exposure to prolonged periods of stress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, stomach issues, headaches, elevated blood pressure, cardiac disease and problems sleeping. Take care of your body. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make meditation a daily self-care practice. Studies analyzed in JAMA (The Journal of The Medical Association) showed that meditation does help manage anxiety. The focus of mindfulness meditation is to train the brain to stay in the moment, which in turn, decreases our stress levels. Create meaningful interactions with your family. Although a pandemic is not what one would ever hope for, try to take advantage of the extra time you might have for connecting with your children, partner, pets and friends. Playing board games, cards and watching movies together are great ways to deepen connections and for creating memories, even during stressful times. Use social networking sites and virtual platforms for staying connected. In addition to texting, I’ve been using FaceTime to connect to friends and family while practicing social distancing. Seeing the other person’s facial expressions and hearing their voice creates a deeper, fuller and richer social interaction. Deeper and richer social interactions definitely help to combat depression or loneliness brought on by social distancing. Connect with nature. As much as possible, go for a walk, a run or a bike ride. Research consistently shows that connecting with nature decreases symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. You’re not alone. Remember yourself you’re not alone. We’re all affected by the pandemic and most of us are experiencing an increase in our stress levels. It’s unavoidable. Simply knowing we’re not alone can reduce feelings of loneliness. Let’s stay connected during these stressful times. I’d like to hear from you. Please share your suggestions or recommendations that could help others or questions you may have regarding caring for your emotional health during the pandemic. Be well and be safe! View the full article
  14. Admin

    Easing the Fears of Children

    The fear response is part of our human nature. Fears and worry reactions to those fears arise uncontrollably within us. Sometimes these instincts serve us well. At other times, they complicate our lives in unproductive or negative ways. Many of the same things that help you manage your fears can help your children manage theirs. Information and coping strategies might have to be expressed in different ways by using age-appropriate language and suggestions. But the children in your life deserve the kind of care that can make the difference between an experience causing traumatic injury to their psyches or a strengthening of their resiliency. Be as honest as you can. Ask your child what he has heard about an issue and how he feels about it. This gives you a place to start a conversation and the opportunity to correct any misinformation. Ask questions to make sure he understands and be open to discussion whenever he is. If you do not know the answers to his questions, tell him you will try to find out. And then do so. Sometimes, as with the worldwide coronavirus situation that’s causing changes to how we live and creating real and serious danger, you may have to help him deal with uncertainty instead of specific answers. That’s okay, too. In fact, it is very important to know how to do this. Model a calm approach to dealing with an issue. Use common sense when you make decisions. Follow advice of experts. And seek professional help for you or your child if it is needed. Here are a few sample words to say: We are in this together, and my priority is to make sure you are safe. How do you feel about that? (Then listen. This can be used anytime.) What do you think a good response would be? (Allow input if possible.) Here are the actions we need to take. We are not alone. Many people are dealing with this. Talking with you and feeling included can help your child communicate his feelings and feel comforted, no matter the topic. Feeling loved and close to you helps him gain the confidence he needs to face everyday life as well as stressful circumstances or conditions. Older children may find security in helping you research ways to deal with anxiety or steps your family can take to prepare for emergencies. These simple ideas can make it easier to get through the tough times. Art materials work for any age. Draw or paint along with your child, if they are receptive to that idea, even if you are only painting the house with a big paint brush and a bucket of water with a 3-year-old. Encourage journaling. Writing or drawing on a regular basis is a therapeutic way to work through and process many ideas and feelings. Take walks or play outside. Moving can help. Use natural materials in your home. Displaying a plant or stones or seashells gives peace whenever you or your child look at them. Let your child examine these and arrange them at will. Dough and clay are for more than young children. Search for easy-to-make recipes online. Cooking with you teaches about nutrition and provides comfort and life skills. Sometimes, “play” or “chores” spark serious conversation, but these times are usually a safe outlet for feelings to be expressed and released. Children need that as much as adults do, but allow it to happen naturally. Never force a child to talk or complete these activities. Don’t forget about board games, toys, cards, and crafts. Laughter and appropriate humor can ease tension, too. Set a routine and keep it going as much as you can to create a feeling of normalcy but show your child how to handle sudden, unavoidable changes and temperamental upsets. If you need guidance on these topics, check books or online resources. Many parents share what works for them in online groups or in comments below parenting articles. There are many choices for pleasurable reading for all ages. Search for “free digital books” for the age and category that you want. And, keep self-care practices going for you as well as your children. Drink water. Eat healthy food. Exercise. These things help tremendously with health, anxiety, stamina and strength. Have confidence in your parenting skills. You know your child best and how he or she might react. Adjust and adapt any suggestions you find to your unique situation. If there’s one thing we can learn from the younger members of our families, it’s that life goes on in full, rich, and exciting ways. It may not feel like this is true sometimes, but we only have to take one step, one breath, one day at a time. View the full article
  15. I have a confession to make. I am writing this blog as much for you as I am for me. These are challenging times. I find it especially hard to hear such difficult news on a daily basis — news that is not balanced with much good news. We don’t get an alert on our phones every time someone recovers from Coronavirus, and we hear more about the hoarding and shortage of supplies than we do about the acts of kindness and care taking place each day to help people through. In addition, it can be hard to escape the panic, anxiety and fear that is around us on a daily basis that feels contagious. As we face uncertain, unprecedented and challenging times, a critical question becomes what resources can we draw on to help us through this? How can we remain responsive to the challenges at hand without letting fear, panic or anxiety overtake us? I have been asking myself this question daily lately, and again and again reminding myself to open my toolbox and use the things that I teach. Rick Hanson writes that as human beings we have three basic needs — for safety, satisfaction and connection. When we perceive that these needs are met, we are able to remain in what he refers to as the “green zone,” where we can meet challenges in a responsive and helpful way. When we perceive that any of these needs are unmet, it is easier to slip into what he calls the “red zone,” where our fight-or-flight response and stress, fear and negativity can take over. For many people during this uncertain time of the Coronavirus outbreak, all three needs feel threatened in very real ways. In particular, many people feel a heightened sense of a lack of safety. Having tools to help calm the body and mind, to bring us back to some felt sense of safety in this moment — as much as is available — can be immensely important. Tools to help meet safety needs: Understand your evolutionary wiring. As a species, our nervous system was wired through millions of years of evolution to fight, flee, or in some cases freeze, in response to threats to our safety, such as saber tooth tigers. This adaptive response helped our ancestors survive the physical threats they faced, and they ultimately passed along their genes to us. While this response is there to protect us, the problem is that it doesn’t always serve us in modern times. While some aspects of my stress response can be protective and mobilize me to take appropriate actions and precautions, if my alarm sounds too loudly and incessantly it can leave me in a chronic state of tension, stress and fear which is simply not helpful or protective. So how do we work with this habitual response? 1. One thing I have found helpful is to thank this part of me, this inner alarm, for trying to protect me. It is doing the best it can, operating from a very old template. But as an evolved human, I can step back and remind myself that I have other ways to help myself feel safe that involve calming my nervous system to think most clearly. Like a loving parent who knows best, I can remind the more primitive part of my brain that when I am not trying to fight or flee, I can actually do more to protect myself (by seeing more clearly what is needed from a place of calm). 2. Focus on what is in your control. While there is a lot that we may not be able to control, it is helpful to focus our attention on the things we can do. I have been much more vigilant about keeping my hands away from my face, washing them frequently when in public, wiping down common surfaces, and reducing my time in public places. I am also focusing on taking care of myself through healthy eating and exercise. When we have a sense of perceived control, this can help reduce our stress. 3. Don’t focus on getting rid of fear; instead focus on inviting something else in. Practice some ways to bring ease to your nervous system, even for brief moments. What I have been finding increasingly is that I don’t have to focus on getting rid of fear. It may still be there, but I can choose how I respond to it. Instead, of focusing on pushing it away, I find it helpful to invite something else in that can sit side by side with the fear, to soothe, comfort or bring ease to whatever I am experiencing. Having ways of calming my body through meditation, finding some comfort even in the steady rhythm of my breath and the deep inner stillness at my core, despite the waves and storms thrashing wildly at the surface, has been very helpful for me. Practicing meditation has helped me to observe what is happening from a place of spacious awareness, rather than being hijacked by every passing thought and emotion (though at times I certainly get hijacked!). Some metaphors and images that I have found especially helpful include: sitting on the bank of a river watching the ships float by (representing my thoughts and emotions) without getting swept away by each one; imagining that I am the vast, expansive ocean that holds all of the waves rather than being swept away by any one wave of intense emotion. Inviting in self-compassion at times of heightened fear has also been very helpful to me. One way to do this is to think about how you might comfort someone you care about and offer yourself those same sentiments. There is no single right way to invite calm into the body. For some it might be a warm bath, spending time with a beloved pet, or listening to inspiring music. Don’t worry about getting rid of fear, just focus on also inviting in a felt sense of calm in whatever way it might be available to you. 4. Work with mental rumination. In addition to our built-in fight or flight alarm system, we also are wired for our minds to wander. In particular, they tend to wander to the past and to the future, to what ifs and worries of things not in the present moment. This may have had some evolutionary survival value for our ancestors, but it is not always so helpful in our modern lives. Planning for the future, anticipating potential dangers and taking actions to prepare, is of course important and helpful. But incessant worry and mental rumination about things we can’t do anything about can be very wearing. Yet it is sometimes very hard to step out of. And we don’t always even recognize we are doing this. One thing I have found helpful is to imagine two boxes. In the first box put everything that has to do with the present moment. This could include specific actions you need to take in the coming days or week, as well as what is actually happening right now. In the second box, which I call the future box, put all of your future worries and what ifs, that may or may not happen, and that you can do nothing about right now. Put all of the unhelpful places your mind wanders to in that box. For many people, that second box can be quite large. Now imagine taking the present moment box and the future box and dumping out all the contents in the middle of the room. Trying to deal with all of that at once would be overwhelming. Instead, imagine putting the lid on the future box and gently setting it aside. Open the present moment box and choose to focus only on the contents in that box. As it becomes necessary, and only when and if it becomes necessary, move what is appropriate from your future box into your present moment box. I find that most of my mental suffering is caused by living from my future box, mentally rehearsing future what ifs and trying to cope these unknowns on top of what is actually here. When I am able to remind myself of this exercise it lessens that suffering. 5. Having Anchors and Refuges When emotions are very intense it can be helpful to have ways of anchoring ourselves in something right here and now. What is effective can vary from person to person, and different things may be helpful at different times. For me, sometimes focusing on “just this breath coming in, just this breath going out” can be helpful in the midst of high anxiety, but at other times I need something more active. I find that when my fears are particularly heightened about something, focusing on a task that does not take a lot of mental effort, such as folding laundry or cleaning my house, can be helpful to bring me back to presence, fully immersed in the activity at hand. This offers relief from mental rumination and anchors me back in the present moment. For some people focusing on walking and feeling the sensation of their feet making contact with the ground, doing a puzzle, knitting, drawing or cooking might be helpful. Being in nature and taking in one’s surroundings with any or all of the five senses can be both a helpful refuge and anchor for many people. When we can rest in something in this moment, even if just for short periods at a time, it can offer relief and refuge from the heightened anxiety in our bodies and the mental worries in our minds. 6. Focus on resources you already have. Think about some of the most challenging things you have faced in your lifetime and identify what helped you through. What inner strengths, mental mindsets, beneficial actions did you use to help you manage these challenges? Know that those inner resources are there for you to draw on as you need. You are more resilient than you may realize. A word about meeting our needs for satisfaction: Many peoples’ lives have changed in dramatic ways in a very short period of time. Students are home from schools, many people are working from home or perhaps may not even have jobs to go to at present. What we normally have done for entertainment may no longer be available in the ways we are used to. It is helpful to acknowledge our needs for satisfaction and to rethink how we might find sources of satisfaction in new ways. I know some people who are viewing times of self-quarantine or extended time at home as an opportunity to do things they normally don’t have time to do — learning something new, reading, taking up a hobby, taking care of unfinished projects, or spending more time with their children. Others are taking advantage of more things happening online, such as the Metropolitan Opera streaming performances, taking online workshops, or taking virtual museum tours. We may need to be creative about finding ways to meet our satisfaction needs as our routines are disrupted but having an open mind and willingness to think outside of the box is one place to start. A word about meeting our needs for connection: More than ever, in times of crisis we need connection with others, yet this very connection is being challenged in ways we have never before experienced. Similar to our need for satisfaction, it is important to acknowledge and prioritize this need and come up with creative ways of remaining connected. Fortunately, we have technology on our side for this one! Many of my family members just had our first virtual get together. My local meditation community just announced they are offering all of its workshops and gatherings online. The nice weather where I live enabled me to get together and go running with friends at a local state park. Teens that I know have been riding their bikes together. Phone calls and FaceTime can allow family members and friends to remain connected. Finding ways of remaining connected to others is a crucial way that we can take care of ourselves and each other during these stressful times. While these uncertain times may challenge us as our core, it is possible to take steps to help ourselves feel a bit safer, more satisfied and more connected than we would if we let our panic and anxiety go unchecked. As we move toward the “green zone”, we can be more responsive and less reactive to the challenges at hand, and face each day with resilience, inner strength and courage to guide us through this uncharted territory. View the full article