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  1. At certain times, it might seem impossible to find a few moments of peace in your life. If you have a lot of responsibilities or worries, you may feel caught in a whirlwind of trying to get things done while trying to deal with problems or your own complex emotions. Other people impact your sense of peace, too, when they ask you to do more than you feel you can handle comfortably or when they cause additional issues. The good news is, no matter how difficult your external life is, you can add healing peace to each day. This won’t magically make everything okay, but it can help you deal with stress and protect your health. Where can you squeeze in these moments? It only takes a news report or controversial comment to see that problems today are very real. And these are important. Doing what you can when you can is one way to achieve peace about issues. Plan and make your efforts as meaningful as possible. The feeling of control over something can help minimize the stress that feeling helpless brings. And you can make a difference when changes need to be made. Recognize early when stress is beginning to overtake you. Ask for help with chores that can be delegated. Take a look at your calendar; use that and notes or lists to make sure you prioritize those things that have to be done, others that need to be done but can be rescheduled for a later time, and some that are just on your wish list. Prioritizing may help you find those tasks that you can let go completely. Don’t forget to make space for self-care. When new ideas, needs, opportunities, and requests for help come in, you can look at your calendar and see a true picture of your time. It’s always a good idea to delay an answer by saying something like, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you with a decision.” This also avoids the immediate pressure of having to make a quick decision. Saying “no” is a skill and does not usually come naturally. Develop it by practicing what you really want to say. If you are grieving or feeling ill, minimize the demands on your strength and seek support from professionals or peers. Support groups of all kinds can be found in local areas or online. Connecting with other people dealing with similar pain can give you immense strength. And you will find yourself feeling more in control as you return the favor by helping others or just letting them know you hear them and care. These may seem like small, unimportant things, but having moments of peace in your life everyday can help you live better and do more. Even a simple plant on your table can bring your thoughts to nature and give you a break from pressing matters. When you can, a swim, a shower, listening to music, or working on an art project can do the same thing and nurture your resiliency. Friends and family members need peace, too, so share what worked for you. You live in a complicated society, a global society, in which people interact with others who think and behave differently or who share your values but express them in different ways. Conflict increases stress. Make sure your day does not revolve around disagreements. You may be experiencing anxiety or stress about parenting, money, work, relationships, health. One stressor often impacts other areas, and situations can be acute, episodic, or chronic. Parents of young children are faced with a different kind of stress than parents of adult children. At all stages of life, however, working with those who are important in your life requires the cooperation of everyone involved. Don’t let stress go unaddressed. Your health and the wellbeing of those you care about are at risk if you do. It you need to make a major shift (job change, break up, relocation), find ways to make the adjustment easier, but first make sure you won’t be just exchanging one stress for another. Examine scenarios and address emotional issues that can clear the way for a healthy decision. If no beneficial change can be made and you cannot find workable solutions, consider accepting a situation. The measurable difference in stress may make it worthwhile for you to stop trying to change or “fix” it. Ask yourself if what you’re struggling against really is worth all the anger and frustration you feel. It may be. That is very different from other things that can be let go without much sacrifice. Only you can decide what is best for you and your family. Exploring these different strategies allows you to hold onto hope. View the full article
  2. As someone whose friends and family know I’ve endured a number of heartbreaking challenges and physical and emotional difficulties, I’m often asked how I cope with anxiety. They see my eternal optimism as at odds with the turmoil I’ve gone through in life and wonder what my secret is for dealing with a magnitude of life’s ups and downs. I tell them, quite simply, that it isn’t a secret, yet the most effective technique I’ve discovered to calm anxiety is deep breathing. How and why does deep breathing work in calming anxiety? The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that about 40 million adults in America have an anxiety disorder, making anxiety this country’s most common mental illness. If deep breathing exercises can help, surely more people should add this technique to their anxiety-busting toolkit. While my anecdotal experiences may serve as peer advice, to further validate the benefits of deep breathing as an easy-to-use anxiety intervention, I combed research for some scientific answers and offer them here. Deep Abdominal Breathing Reduces Anxiety and Stress According to the American Institute of Stress, 20-30 minutes of deep breathing daily is effective in reducing both anxiety and stress. It has to be breathing deeply through the abdomen to produce the best results. What happens during deep abdominal breathing is that the oxygen breathed in stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, produces a feeling of calmness and body connectedness that diverts attention from stressful, anxious thoughts and quiets what’s going on in the mind. Researchers Find Why Deep Breathing Induces Tranquility and Calm Research published in Science uncovered what may be a likely reason why deep breathing is so successful in bringing about a sense of calmness and tranquility. In studies with mice, Stanford University researchers discovered that a neuronal subpopulation in the animals’ primary breathing rhythm generator projects directly to a center of the brain with a key role in “generalized alertness, attention, and stress.” This subgroup of neurons belongs to a cluster of neurons in the brainstem that controls breathing initiation. When scientists removed the neuronal subgroup from the brains of the mice, it did not affect breathing, yet the mice remained in a state of calm. In fact, their calm behaviors increased while they spent less time in agitated or aroused states. Further research, they said, should explore mapping the full range of functions and emotions controlled by the breathing center. Deep Breathing Turns Off Body’s Response to Stress When you’re anxious and tense, the body automatically kicks in the stress response. This is known as the “fight or flight” syndrome and is the physiological reaction that occurs from the release of the chemicals cortisol and adrenaline. Initially, the stress response helped man respond to external threats to his existence, like fire, flood, marauding wild animals or an attack by members of rival clans. While not so applicable today, the body’s stress response still throttles up when it senses danger or a threat. Being aware of danger when it suddenly appears helps us take preventive action to save lives. Yet when stress goes on indefinitely, and the stress response is constant or chronic, it wreaks incredible havoc on the body. Not only does anxiety increase, so do a number of health risks, such as obesity, heart disease, and digestive problems. Deep breathing, however, turns off the body’s natural stress response, allowing heart rate and blood pressure to decrease, tension in muscles to relax, and promotes an overall resiliency build-up to better withstand life’s stressors and anxiety. How Does Deep Breathing Affect Stress? In a pilot study published in Neurological Sciences, researchers said their results point to the possibility that deep breathing has the capability of inducing mood and stress improvement effectively. The study utilized both self-reports and objective parameters. They noted that deep breathing, particularly as practiced during yoga and qigong, has long been perceived as beneficial to overall well-being. Research of yoga, the oldest known technique for relaxing, has found improvements of a “remarkable” nature in blood pressure, heart rate, body composition, motor abilities, respiratory function, cardiovascular function, and more. Also, researchers found positive effects in mood states, such as anxiety and perceived stress, including deep breathing’s effect on reducing tension anxiety. Breath Control (Slow, Deep Breathing) Can Decrease Anxiety Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that slow, deep breathing can decrease anxiety by promoting changes that enhance autonomic, psychological, and cerebral flexibility through a number of mutual interactions. These include links between central nervous system activities that are related to emotional control, parasympathetic activity, and psychological well-being. The psychological and behavioral outputs resulting from these changes produce an increase in alertness, relaxation, vigor, comfort, and pleasantness and a decrease in anxiety, depression, anger, arousal, and confusion. In a study published in Frontiers in Physiology, researchers Donald J. Noble and Shawn Hochman investigate the effect that sensory nerves around the chest play in deep breathing’s ability to relax the chest during exhalation, thereby triggering baroreceptors (another set of sensors) in arteries. Both sets of sensors, the researchers said, feed into the brainstem, and the resulting slow brain waves produce the state of relaxed alertness. The ideal is six breaths per minute, note researchers. What if You’re Chronically Anxious? If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder and deep breathing only works sometime to help dampen the anxiety level you feel, you may benefit from seeking treatment from a doctor or mental health professional. Symptoms of chronic anxiety include, but are not limited to, exhaustion and fatigue, constantly worrying, sleep problems, decreased or increased appetite, digestion problems, difficulty concentrating, and lack of energy. There’s no shame involved in asking for help to learn how to overcome anxiety. While medication and talk therapy may be necessary as you work through how to effectively cope with anxiety, deep breathing and other therapies will likely also be incorporated into the healing plan. View the full article
  3. Uncertainty is the reigning emotion during critical times. The response to our feelings may depend on our physical, emotional, and mental health circumstances. The turmoil in the world can surely make for a perfect emotional daily storm. Our protective mind may advise us to curl up in bed and stay there. However, will avoidance provide us with moments of joy despite the turbulence and uncertainty around us? We are constantly being triggered by external signals. We may be aware of how our body and mind respond, but sometimes we may not consciously recognize it. When awareness is absent, we can quickly become entangled with unpleasant and unhelpful thoughts. Uncertainty can take over and panic may follow. It has been said that “if you are not willing to have it, you will.” The more you resist uncertainty, the more pain and suffering occurs. Just the prospect of embracing uncertainty is distressing. However, you know the alternative. Looking for certainty in life is like trying to find gold at the end of the rainbow. Will you then consider the following steps that can help when you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty?* 1. Acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When your mind begins to provide you with unhelpful advice, acknowledge what you are noticing in the moment of discomfort. For example, “I am noticing thoughts related to uncertainty; I am noticing the feeling of anxiety. I am noticing the bodily sensation of nausea and rapid heart rate.” Thoughts, feelings and sensations are natural internal events. They come and they go, but when you start evaluating, try to fix, or fight them, you become stuck with them. Notice if acknowledging them is more effective. Acknowledge your internal events as needed throughout the day. 2. Breathe In and out slowly. As you exhale, picture the air flowing into the area of your body where you feel the sensation related to uncertainty. Do not misunderstand this step. You are not trying to breathe the sensation away. Your task is to notice your breathing and let the air go into and around the sensation to get you ready for the next step. 3. Create Space for Uncertainty As you continue to breathe in and around uncertainty, imagine creating room for it in your body. Take a stance of curiosity. For example, think of the sensation as if it were a tangible thing. What shape, color, and texture does uncertainty have right now? Where does it begin and end in your body? Does it have a sound or vibration? Make space for uncertainty, and notice it with interest. 4. Decide to Allow Uncertainty Uncertainty is unpleasant. You don’t have to like it. You only need to decide to allow it and keep expanding the space for it while it is visiting you in this very moment. Observe it, and let it take its natural course without pushing it away. Sometimes your emotions and sensations related to uncertainty will change. If they change, notice and acknowledge as described above. When you feel like you have created enough room for the initial sensation, go ahead and repeat the steps with the new emotion and/or sensation that has emerged. 5. Engage in What Matters Most When you feel compelled to resist and/or obsess, will that help you become the person you want to be? When the urge is irresistible and you do something to find relief, will it take you closer to who and what matters most in your life? You can devote your precious energy and time to connecting with your loved ones and engaging life — doing what really matters. Uncertainty is part of the human condition, and you can choose what kind of relationship you’ll have with it. Following the steps above is a way to start changing your mindset. You can develop curiosity as doubts present themselves. Remember that when storms are upon you, they are opportunities for personal growth and learning. You are not alone. We are all in this together. You can embrace uncertainty, and as you build resilience, take advantage of your strengths and gifts to bring value to those around you. You can do this! “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” – Margaret Drabble Reference: *Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap: How To Stop Struggling and Start Living, Boston, MA: Trumpeter Books, 2008. View the full article
  4. One of the most confusing feelings is when you feel both calm and anxious at the same time. It can seem like a constant battle in your mind. One-minute life feels normal, the next it seems frightening. Or you find yourself going along with your day and suddenly realize you’re supposed to feel worried, and so you start worrying because you’re not worried enough. It’s a frustrating and confusing way to exist. Unfortunately, when there are events that affect the world around us on a large scale, and over which we have no control, this feeling isn’t uncommon. Many of us are existing in a heightened state of anxiety right now. It’s no wonder — coronavirus, earthquakes, riots, and, yes, even UFOs have dominated the news and, in many cases, have turned our lives upside down. Even those of us who feel like we’re coping and getting through things fairly well are dealing with a certain level of discomfort that can be hard to put your finger on. The impact that today’s circumstances are having on people vary a great deal. Some of these impacts are quite clear and yet some are so subtle that you may claim they don’t exist. Except they do and the effects and repercussions of living in the current conditions can take a large toll, whether you recognize it at that moment or not. So how can we cope and maintain a calm, hopeful, and purposeful approach to life, when it seems like the world around us has gone mad? Acknowledge the Circumstances Before you can really begin to cope you need to acknowledge that circumstances are stressful and not what we would consider normal. We often overlook doing this because our brains are wired to try and create order out of chaos. So, we immediately try to assimilate and, often unknowingly, try to make things feel normal even when they’re clearly not. This is both good and bad. On the good side, our natural inclination to look for a way to create normalcy and a functional framework for each day helps make our lives work and can create calm. Finding structure allows us to progress from day-to-day, attempting to be productive and positive. Most of us need this in order to thrive — this is especially true for children. But sweeping the frightening, uncomfortable, or painful state of things to the side has a downside. When our lives become unsettled and disrupted it causes stress and anxiety. This is a normal response, and not just a psychological one either but also a physiological one as well. Turning a blind eye will only amplify the anxiety response and it can manifest in unexpected and unpredictable ways. Some people may find they become easily agitated and even develop anger issues. Others may go into a depressive state, or find that they feel sick, shaky for no defined reason, unable to concentrate, or just constantly uncomfortable. This is one place where the “I feel fine and not fine at the same time” feeling can develop and this duality in feelings can make it harder to address. So, acknowledging the circumstances is crucial. It’s perfectly acceptable to admit that things aren’t normal, that you don’t like it, and that a radical left-turn in your life and routine makes you unhappy. Once you give conscious recognition to these feelings, you’re ready to figure out the best way to cope. Coping with a Crazy World Finding a way to cope and make the best out of a bad situation will look a bit different for each of us. But there are some general principles that, when employed, can make things easier. Share your sorrow and fear. When large scale events occur, whether it’s a pandemic or a natural disaster, there are enormous groups of people affected. As sad as this is, it’s also unifying. These types of circumstances don’t discriminate and there is a tremendous commonality in feeling and response. It can be tempting to withdraw and focus on taking care of yourself and immediate family, but that can also be very isolating and lonely. So you should also reach out to people around you. You now have a shared experience and something immediately in common. In the case of the our current state of physical distancing and social restrictions this may be a more virtual effort than ever before. But if there were ever a time for social media to do good it’s now. Reject feeling helpless. This can be tough for many of us. When events are out of our control it’s easy to feel like you are at the mercy of everything around you. You’re not. Yes, you may have new limitations and be suffering in certain ways, but don’t let yourself fall prey to the feeling of helplessness that can creep over you. One thing that can help is to make a list of the things you can do and take charge of doing them. Indulge in healthy. Comfort food and comfortable clothes seem, well, comforting when things are scary or sad. But beware — too much of that and you’ll just feel worse. It’s a much better idea to indulge in the healthy activities and foods that perhaps you haven’t had time for before this. Swear. Not in front of your kids, not at your boss, not at strangers, etc. But studies show that using expletives at the appropriate time can reduce tension and anxiety and actually make you feel better. So, if you hate the state of things, try locking yourself in the bathroom and letting the f-bombs fly. You probably feel a lot f#$%ing better. Whatever your strategy is, managing your feelings and response during stressful times can be a challenge. But give yourself permission to dislike it, feel sad and scared, and then make an effort to move forward. View the full article
  5. I feel very grateful to have found a portal I can use to experience a compelling sense of inner peace. I want to share it with you in the hopes that you can join me in my serenity, regardless of what is going on around you in the outside world. I simply visualize that my psyche is a mountain. At the top is the thinking part of my brain, in the middle are my feelings, and at the bottom is my subconscious and all the other parts of my mind that lurk around outside of my active awareness. Running underneath and through this mountain is an inviting stream of peace. A peace I can jump into at any moment to carry me away to a beautiful place I can’t describe in mere words. However, when I am there, I am drenched in stillness and presence. This stream meanders from my mountain as I transcend my mind and venture into an alluring and distant domain. I am sometimes in a canoe as I float by sandy banks and pine trees and gaze at clouds as they pass through the sky. Other times I am flowing in warm, white light which leaves me feeling like I just pulled a quilt over my head as I lay in bed on a cold winter’s night. I savor going to my stream when I meditate because I know I have ample time to venture beyond the limitations of my mind and reach deeper and deeper levels of bliss, far from the challenges of the quickly disappearing outside world. I also go to my stream whenever I have unwanted thoughts or crave a moment of silence amidst the noise in my head or the outside world. I used to have to remind myself to jump into my stream, but now go there instinctively whenever the need arises. Finally, my stream has helped me overcome intense fear and anxiety during highly traumatic moments in my life. A few years ago, I found myself lying helplessly on a gurney in a very crowded hospital emergency room after an EKG revealed that I might have had a heart attack. I worked myself into a lather of despair as I pondered my mortality and thought about all the beloved family and friends that I would leave behind if I died. Suddenly, I was jolted out of my distress by the beckoning of my stream and quickly dove in. I closed my eyes, let go of any semblance of control over my life and began drifting away from the chaos around me and into a state of inner comfort and safety. Although I certainly did not feel happy and was still aware of my predicament, I did experience a desperately needed sanctuary from my suffering. Fortunately, it turned out I was fine and I returned to enjoying all life has to offer. However, I will always value the fact that I was able to find some peace of mind despite my perilous situation. When I am in my stream, I feel very close to myself. I also feel deeply connected to all of humanity and relish the awareness that my fellow human beings have been finding their own portals into peace since we began walking around on two feet. Whether through meditation, yoga, prayer, strolling in the woods or simply gazing at a beautiful sunset, we all long for peace of mind. We spend our entire lives inside ourselves and it is a lot more pleasant if we have inner harmony rather than emotional turmoil. I love to read the writings of the great women and men who have spoken eloquently about how we can achieve wellbeing and abundance. My favorite is the poet Rumi who wrote: Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. One of the most fruitful epiphanies I have experienced is that I can be immersed in my stream and still live the life I want in the outside world. In fact, I am more productive and effective because I am mindfully focused on the task at hand and can hear the guidance and wisdom of my “inner voice.” As a therapist and life coach, I routinely encourage my clients to identify a real or imagined place that brings them a sense of quietude. The beach is the most popular destination, although I have heard about many appealing spots, including one client who visualized that he was a frog sitting on a log in a pond on a hot summer’s day. I then use guided meditations to lead my clients to their tranquil scene, far from their problems and worries. I love the look of contentment on their faces along with their frequent tears as they arrive and bask in their inner calm. It is often difficult for my clients who have been traumatized to give themselves the gift of inner peace because they erroneously believe they need their fear and anxiety to shield themselves from danger. I assure them that these emotions do not protect them and that they will be able to take even better care of themselves if they are peaceful. For instance, I recently asked a client who was visualizing that she was sitting on the bank of a beautiful lake if she would still be able to move to safety if the woods around her caught on fire. She smiled, responded “of course,” and settled back into her deep relaxation. Once my clients have developed the ability to access their peacefulness, they have renewed energy and focus to change what they can in themselves and their lives. The emotional pain that brought them to therapy fades away and they experience greater happiness and fulfillment. Now it’s your turn. Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and visualize that you are jumping into the stream of inner peace we will share. There is plenty of room and you richly deserve the serenity and abundance which await you! View the full article
  6. As a chronic worrier, ongoing anxiety warrior, and general wary-of-what’s-going-to-happen-next kind of person, I know how healing it can be to practice the art of living in the present. As simple as that goal seems, though, it sometimes proves a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve read numerous articles and books on the subject, including Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, which offers specific practices on how to connect to the outer world and, even more importantly, to the stillness of our inner being to help anchor ourselves in the present moment. As Tolle points out, people can cope with whatever arises in the here and now (even if it’s an emergency, one can spring into action), yet it’s practically impossible to deal with something that is only a mind projection into the future — or the wish-I-could-change-things way of thinking of the past. Living in the present, then, can help decrease the anxiety of future what-ifs and alleviate the depression of past regrets. And while I highly recommend Tolle’s teachings and often reread (and keep underlining) his book’s messages, I still struggle. Looking around, I know others are as well. Even the people I know who practice living in the here and now and meditate on a daily basis suffer from the bows and arrows of both life circumstances and inner emotional pain. So… how can we deal the reality of hardship while striving to thrive in the now? I believe, first of all, it’s important to know that both our physical and emotional worlds are things we need to acknowledge and tend to. In other words, if you’re dealing with incredible back pain, it may help to get it diagnosed by a health care practitioner and then heed whatever treatment plan that will heal or alleviate your physical distress. Likewise, if you’re in deep emotional pain, you may want to seek the expertise of a professional — or even a trusted friend — to help you understand where it stems from and what actions you can take to deal with it. Also, know that if you’re living with ongoing mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD, it’s important to acknowledge your triggers and know that it may be extra challenging to practice staying in the here and now (which doesn’t mean it won’t help you in the long run — even if you may encounter setbacks). Then, too, most of us have to deal — at one time or another, at least — with devastating life circumstances such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, loss of job and/or home, etc. During these times, we can feel as if we’re treading on the sea of survival. We not only have to deal with the stark reality of today — but also have to plan for the future in a much bigger way than before. Practicing the present joy of the sun on our faces and connecting to the stillness of our inner voice can be that much more difficult — but even more powerful — during these trying times. As Tolle points out in his book Practicing the Power of Now, even if you learn to accept the reality of your current situation (whether it stems from devastation or simple stagnation), it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to it. You can still see what needs to be done, take action, and do one thing at a time to make a positive change toward a more positive direction. The practice of living in the now, then, doesn’t mean that we deflect real life circumstances, emotions, mental health conditions and our physical bodies as mere distractions. We still take appropriate action; we still plan for the future. Taking action and planning in the present moment, though, is quite different from the rumination cycle of reliving past mistakes and fretting over future events. When we plant our feet in the reality of the here and now, we are more likely to stay clear headed, make positive, solution-based decisions — and hopefully be able to hold onto a deeper peace of mind — even while in turmoil. I, myself, am working on it, at least! View the full article
  7. What could possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything — says your brain. In today’s Psych Central Podcast, Gabe talks with Kevin Stacey, an effectiveness expert, author and former brain imaging specialist. Kevin explains how and why your brain often acts as your worst enemy, giving you a constant flow of fake news. What can we do about it? Can we make our brain a more positive ally? Tune in for a great discussion on reigning in your inner critic. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Kevin Stacey- Reduce Daily Worry’ Podcast Episode Kevin Stacey, MBA, is an effectiveness expert, author, and former brain imaging specialist who removes barriers to performance, boosts resiliency, and accelerates results- no matter what. He combines his military background, management training, experience as a healthcare clinician, and successful manager at the nation’s largest managed care company to be a catalyst for workplace improvement. After starting his medical career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Kevin now brings the principals of neuroscience into the modern business world to effect change from the inside-out. Kevin has a proven record of helping organizations enhance their effectiveness and bottom line. From IBM, The New York Times, Ford Motor Company, JP Morgan Chase, Pharmacia, Bayer, Goody Hair Care, United Technologies, Boeing, and Sara Lee, he has worked with the world’s best and brightest and studied the effects of self-created problems in organizations and individuals along with the most effective antidotes to combat it. His services help these and other clients achieve increased performance, sales, higher employee retention, greater job satisfaction, and improved service quality. He is CEO and founder of TrainRight, Inc., with a highly-skilled team of facilitators offering programs globally. 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 ‘Kevin Stacey- Reduce Daily Worry‘ Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard. Gabe Howard: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have Kevin Stacey, MBA. He’s an effectiveness expert, author and former brain imaging specialist who removes barriers to performance, boosts resiliency and accelerates results, no matter what. He’s the author of MindRight: Navigate the Noise – How to deal with your internal fake news. Kevin, welcome to the show. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Thank you, Gabe, so much for having me. Gabe Howard: Kevin, I’m really glad you’re on the show, because I think a lot of us get bogged down in our own negative self talk. Can you give us some sort of an explanation or a definition of negative self talk? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Sure, Gabe, you know, it’s so frustrating for people and I’ve seen some stuff lately, they think the US, we’re considered the most unhappiest kind of wealthy nation in the world. I think they’re much happier out there in Finland or some of those European countries. But, you know, with the negative self talk it is just this background kind of chatter that goes on, it’s almost like death by a thousand paper cuts, it needles with it. And so many people just aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. It’s just that’s how they grew up. They’re just so used to this background, automatic negative thoughts. The brain is very negative, unfortunately. Our brains have a negativity bias and the brain just really wants to speculate on what’s going wrong. What could go wrong? What might be wrong with this picture? How I might be in danger. And it’s just inner criticism, self-criticism, inner critic, kind of out of control, this is what I mean by internal fake news. It’s kind of news that appears real. But it’s really just fake because it’s our brain trying to protect us from physical danger. And it’s really just silly and outdated job. Gabe Howard: One of the things that I think of when I hear negative self talk is a conversation that I have with my wife about once a week. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Right. Gabe Howard: I say to her, oh, my God, you’re so positive. You’re basically Pollyanna. And she says to me, well, you’re so negative. And I say, I’m not negative. I’m a realist. Kevin Stacey, MBA: So I guess that’s what they mean by opposites attract. Gabe Howard: I think it is, but in my mind, I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. The negative things I find aren’t fake. They are real. I’m worried about paying bills or worried about work. But of course, my wife is pointing this out because I imagine it’s unbearable to live with somebody who is just constantly walking around saying, hey, the plumbing could leak. Do we have insurance? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, I mean, it can be tough. People can bring you down, but good to be prepared. It’s good to have financial plans. It’s good to have backup plans. But I just think at some point people have to just ask themselves, how would I like things to go? How would they like things to be? A lot of us are just such experts in our problems or perceived problems or speculating over problems that we’re just experts not in solving them but just describing them to other people. Gabe Howard: That’s a really good point that you brought up there, that we’re experts in describing them, but we’re not experts in fixing them. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Well, just the analysis paralysis, the rumination is what psychologists call it, just the getting stuck in the problem and kind of looping around and looping around. And some people, I think they want to act like victims, like you could ask the, well, what do you think you could do about that? And some people just really aren’t ready to think about or talk about solutions. They just want to be stuck in the problem. For some people that works for them. The victim mentality, some people that works for them to get people to feel bad for them. Some people get attention this way or, you know, most people do what works for them on some level. But it really just affects the immune system and affects the health and it attracts a lot of negative things. And if you’ve heard, Gabe, much above the law of attraction. But I just don’t want to think negatively. I just don’t want to attract negative things in my life. You know, again, I don’t want to irresponsibly be unprepared for something, preparation with hand grenades in war. If you’re in that situation, you think of all the negative scenarios that could happen. But life is too short to go through life that way and be attracting and thinking of all these things. Gabe Howard: You’re also sort of describing time and place, right? There is a time to be critical and focus on what could go wrong. And then there’s just the Saturday with your family. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Gabe Howard: So, OK. You’re one of these negative thinkers, you’re Gabe Howard. I am a chronic pessimist and I’m a chronic negative thinker. And I don’t want to be this way. What do I do? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Well, first step is just to notice it and recognize it. You know, that’s 80% of it, if you can recognize it and notice it. Great. So just saying, hey, my name’s Gabe Howard. I’m a little too much of a nervous Nellie. I’m a little too much negative and just recognize that, first of all. And then secondly, just be able to say to yourself, how is this harming me? How is this hurting? How is this attracting negative things into my life? And thirdly, don’t reinforce things that you don’t want to be true. So don’t keep saying, hey, I’m Gabe and I’m a worrier. Just say I’m getting better or I’m becoming more positive or I’m letting go or. That’s the old me or I’m changing from that. And I’m always growing and changing. So I’m becoming more positive and I’m thinking more about what I’d like to have happen. You know, Gabe, this whole question, how would you like things to go? What would you like to have happen? Very few people can answer that. Most people would just go on and on again with how they don’t want things to go, or how I don’t want things to happen. Gabe Howard: It’s really interesting you said that because as you were giving me the question, I thought, huh? How would I like things to go? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Gabe Howard: And I tend to come up with well, I’d like to be happy. Well, you know, that’s a nebulous concept. I’d like to make more money. Well, how much more? If I make an extra dollar am I happy? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Right. Gabe Howard: One of the things in the title of your book is how to get your mind right and navigate the noise. So how do people get their mind right and navigate the noise? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Well, part of it, Gabe, is sometimes you’ve just got to ignore it. Just look at it as noise to look at it as background static and background noise, because we don’t ignore things that we feel are more important and, you know, ignore the noise is an easy phrase to say. And lots of people say it, even though a lot of sports teams and where I’m from, the Patriots in New England, they would, they have a sign in their locker rooms, just ignore the noise. So some of us need to navigate it by just doing a better job ignoring it. Some of us need to look at our brains more with more skepticism and understand that we have a negativity bias. The brain’s job is to print the newspaper every day. It has to print something. It has to come up with something. But again, it’s mostly speculating on the negativity. It’s much more biased toward fulfilling an outdated need to protect us from physical danger. So, A, ignore it and B, look at it with more skepticism and say this is not the God gospel truth. This is not totally accurate. This is just an old job of my brain trying to protect me. Kevin Stacey, MBA: And then thirdly, what I think we need to be doing is going on the offensive. I think it would be fascinating if everybody was just given a 3-D pie chart with their emotional state, say, OK, these were your average emotional states. In other words, 65% of the time you were in the emotional state of fear or stress or frustration. And then what percentage, was it 40 or 20 where you were exhilarated? Were you happy? Were you upbeat? What is your percentage? Because you know, Gabe, when you talk about making more money. We think we want these things. But what we really want is the experiences that we think these things are going to give us. So, you know, if Gabe Howard told me, he said, yeah, you know, I want to win the lottery, that’s great. But why would you want to win the lottery? I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore. So then I say, OK, well, can you just give yourself the experience of not worrying about money? Can you just give yourself the experience of feeling a sense of abundance and gratitude for that? And that’s what we need to do more. Gabe Howard: You know, my uncle has a saying that the amount of money that you need to make is $100 more than you’re currently making because you’re always a Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yes. Gabe Howard: Hundred dollars away from something. And obviously, that’s just this never fulfilling prophecy. And I think about that. And I think, well, yeah, I do that. I currently am making more money at this stage in my life than I ever have before, but I’m no more happier at 43 than I was at 25. And I think Kevin Stacey, MBA: Right. Gabe Howard: About that a lot because it’s kind of a bummer, because I remember 25 year old Gabe. He just wanted to be married and own a house. But, 43 year old Gabe wants to be married and own a house and go on vacations more or, you know, whatever. And I know that you said that our brains resting state is negativity. Why do you think that is? Is it really just to protect us? I mean, because it seems like positivity would protect us more because we’d be happy. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, you know what it is, Gabe? The brain hasn’t caught up. Our brains are in desperate need of an app update. There was an upgrade from the App Store. It’s just our brains haven’t caught up with the reality of our environment. The likelihood of us meeting a sudden and violent death on a daily basis is pretty low. Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back. After we hear from our sponsors. 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 why our brains are so negative with author Kevin Stacey. Kevin Stacey, MBA: What people don’t realize is that human beings have been walking upright on this planet for four million years. And the latest version of mankind, Homo sapiens sapiens really were getting a foothold 50,000 years ago. So we forget how violent earth was when we we had this debut with our brains. So our brains are really just doing an outdated, obsolete job. So it’s speculating on what could go wrong. Because 50,000 years ago, Gabe, what could go wrong was life or death. Nowadays, what could go wrong is when I may miss out on some revenue or I might have 300 e-mails to answer. My wife could be mad at me or do some repairs on the car. But the brain’s still doing the same job. It’s coming up and speculating on what’s wrong or what could go wrong. The only difference nowadays is the answer to the question is no longer life or death. It’s just about everyday life stuff. But it’s still we’re getting that same fight or flight response, we’re getting the same cortisol rushing into the bloodstream. And it just has so many negative effects on us as a human being as a whole. Gabe Howard: I love your app update analogy, that may be my favorite analogy on the Psych Central podcast ever. But then I think and this may be my favorite question, and I’m excited to have you answer it. How do we update our apps? How do we update our brain? I mean, what can we do? Is this… Does Google have the answer? Is it in Kevin Stacey, MBA: No, Gabe Howard: The App Store? Kevin Stacey, MBA: It’s not in the App Store, you know what you have to do? You have to spend some time each day going on the offense. You have to spend some time each day giving yourself a positive experience. Now, this is not positive thinking. This is a positive experience. This is actually closing your eyes and smiling and thinking about and visualizing and playing a video. It’s actually playing video of something that would excite you, how you’d want things to be, how you’d want things to go. So for you, it might be a video of an awesome vacation that you’re going on with your family and with your wife. And everybody’s calm, everybody’s happy, everybody’s grateful. And you’re not worried about the money. You have an abundance of money and it’s just no problem and no worries of the world. And you smile through this and you feel it and you see it. You see yourself on the beach. You see that calm, clear blue water. You feel those winds, you hear the waves, you get into that experience. So that’s how we rewire. We start to get our neurons going in the direction of creating some neural structure in the direction of how we’d like things to go by having good experiences. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Because I tell you, Gabe, we’re so good at just feeling bad about what our thoughts are, thinking about things that make us feel bad or feel stressed or feel worried. We’re not good at all about thinking about what makes us excited and happy. It’s just giving yourself that experience. And then you attract that and now you’re rewiring. Now you’re giving yourself the app update because you’re reinforcing to your brain, this is a good experience. I’m having a good experience right here, right now. This is an awesome experience. And you’re turning the tide. Slowly rewiring. It’s kind of like compound interest. You have to keep doing it and doing it. So I’m not going to tell your audience this is easy. It’s not easy, but it happens slowly over time. But you just got to do it. I do it when I get up in the morning. I just sit up on the bed, close my eyes, sort of pull up behind my back, smile, and then that gets my neurotransmitters heading in the right direction there. And just think about what would excite me, what would go well, what would make me happy, how would I like this date to go. Very few people do this. Gabe Howard: Very few, I imagine, I think about the negative things, I think about my worry points and then I move on. People who are sort of in the know with mental health, like my listeners are, they know that depression and suicide rates, are at not Kevin Stacey, MBA: Mm-hmm. Gabe Howard: All time highs, but pretty close. Why do you think that depression and suicide rates are at such highs right now? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Just we’re so impatient in our society and we want to rethink the way we want it. And you know, what most people would be well served to do is just go to a third world country for a couple weeks or a month to volunteer at a medical treatment facility out in Syria. And then you’d get that perspective shift. Like some of us, we just need a sudden wake up call. We just need like an ice cold glass of water being thrown in our face and just we have no idea what we have. So I think we just keep looking at what we don’t have. What we don’t have. What’s wrong. What’s wrong. So we’ve got to change this around. We’ve got to savor the positive experiences when they happen and stay with it. The psychology of savoring, I think it’s just fascinating because it creates more neural structure. Maybe volunteer at a children’s cancer ward, Gabe. Help people that are less fortunate than you. And remind yourself how many things you have. Find the gratitude in your life. Ask yourself what you’re grateful about, what you’re excited about. But wouldn’t it be fascinating if a percentage of Americans could just go to a Third World country for a few weeks and then come back and then tell us what problems you think you have? Gabe Howard: I believe that every single American should have to work in retail for two weeks. I really, Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, Gabe Howard: Really do, because Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, that would be awesome. Gabe Howard: Yeah. You ever notice that servers are the best tippers? And you notice that people who work in customer service are the nicest to customer service reps. People who have done their tours of duty at fast food places are a lot less likely to start screaming at the minimum wage employee behind the counter because they’ve Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Gabe Howard: They’ve dealt with it. They’ve done it. They have that basic understanding. Sincerely, go volunteer at your local McDonald’s for a week and your perspective of life will change dramatically. I really believe that. Kevin Stacey, MBA: I know. It would it be fascinating, Gabe, if they said everybody has to do it for two weeks a year. You’re going to go to McDonald’s, you’re gonna wear that uniform. You’re going to stand at that drive through counter. Wouldn’t that be great for people’s perspectives? Gabe Howard: It would be wonderful if that could happen, and I sincerely believe that it would change people’s perspectives. I don’t know if it would be the equivalent of an app update. I don’t know if it would make people happier. But I know that I hear people angry at customer service workers and their belief is that the customer service worker doesn’t care. I believe that’s where the rage comes in. Right, because their mind goes to the most negative place. The customer service worker is maliciously not getting my order correct or making my food wrong or ensuring that I have a bad experience. And because, of course, they’re doing it on purpose. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, they assume, you know. I think this whole mindset that people are out to get us and the paranoia. What does that look mean? Why did they say that? Or even you know, the other thing that kills me now, Gabe, is your text hasn’t been replied to or your e-mail message hasn’t been replied to. And then people start making all kinds of assumptions. And speculation means that or it doesn’t mean that the amount of narcissism and self centredness in this country nowadays is just off the charts. No wonder why we’re so unhappy. Gabe Howard: I think you make really, really good points, I I think that we want things now and when we don’t get it now, we assume that somebody is attacking us and then our brains prepare for that attack. That’s I mean, in a nutshell, that’s what you’re saying, right? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know if any many of your listeners have been to Europe, but I guess in England they call it a queue. They’re just so used to standing in queues. It just doesn’t bother them. They just don’t make all these mental assumptions and conclusions. And then all these, have all these conspiracy theories. The anger isn’t there. I mean, maybe because they were bombed during World War II. Every night they had to go into the subway tunnel. I mean, you know, in America we’ve never experienced that. We’re just so impatient. We lose electricity. We lose Wi-Fi service. Oh, my God. OMG. Emojis, emojis. We’re one of the most miserable societies on record, Gabe. Gabe Howard: And yet we have the most money on record. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, we have the most money on record, but we’re not mentally tough enough. Nobody’s creating their own videos nowadays where everybody is just watching YouTube. And back before there was television, they used to call radio the theater of the mind because you had to listen to what was being described. And you create these mental pictures, kind of like book reading, you create a mental picture. But nobody is creating mental pictures in their mind of something that they would like, that would excite them, that would make them happy. They’re just creating missile pictures of disasters and problems. And why is this one mad at me or why didn’t this one respond to me? And when is this place gonna get its act together? When is this person going to get their life together? It’s just an epidemic. We’ve got to get more control of this noise. We’ve got to know when to shut it up. We need to know when to ignore it. We need to know when to create our own noise and go on the offense. Gabe Howard: It really sounds like the old timey phrase take time to stop and smell the roses really applies here. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, not only smell the roses, but feel what the roses make you feel like. Feel that emotion. It’s not positive thinking, it’s positive experiences again, but and the roses are what’s in front of you now. And that’s good. That’s savoring. But what people also need to work on is creating the reality, creating their future, answering the question, how would they like this day or this weekend or the rest of this month to go create a video of that? Put yourself in the video, in the picture, see it, feel it in the brain, also has a novelty bias. So each time you play the video have different levels of detail where you really want to get into it and see it, because this really does it. Now this is the opposite of worrying, right. Worrying is thinking about future events and the way you don’t want it to go, and then feeling the corresponding feelings of tension and anxiety and the nervousness. So this is the opposite of that. Some people would say worrying is the most common form of mental illness. Gabe Howard: I love what you said there, because worrying is just ruminating about something negative over and over and over again, and it impacts your mental health. Whereas, as you put it, if we change the video and if instead of ruminating about a problem, we ruminate about something positive, something that makes me happy. We share those experiences not only with ourselves, but with others. That’s going to impact how we feel as well. But in a positive way. Kevin Stacey, MBA: Yeah, absolutely, because you’re feeling the feeling that the worrying is causing you to feel, which is those negative emotions and it’s about a future event. So, worrying really has two aspects. It’s about a future event, and it’s making you feel anxious, or it’s making it feel negative emotions. But if you were to be so practiced, so proficient at this. But I ask people just for ten minutes. Just close your eyes and smile and think about the future events and the ways that would excite you. And what would that look like? And how would you feel? And try to feel those emotions. Now you’re getting the neurons flowing in the network that maybe have not had a lot of neurons flowing in. Getting that traffic down those roads and those networks from the brain where you want that traffic to go. Gabe Howard: Kevin, I can’t thank you enough. I agree with you. Again, you gave me my favorite analogy ever on the show. I really appreciate that. Where can folks find you and your book? Kevin Stacey, MBA: Sure. You can find me on KevinStacey.com. One of the challenges of my life is you put my name in Google, Kevin Stacey. It comes up as Kevin Spacey and is he guilty or is he innocent? They just assume I’m a misspelling. But it’s just K E V I N S T A C E Y. That’s KevinStacey.com. And then you can get a link to my information on my books and my book on Amazon. MindRight: Navigate the Noise – How to deal with your internal fake news for success, resiliency, mental toughness and peace of mind. And those links should be on there. Gabe Howard: Wonderful, Kevin. Thank you so much. And to my listeners, please rate and subscribe to this podcast. Share us on social media. Use your words, in the description, tell people why you’re sharing the show. 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. 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
  8. Admin

    Agoraphobia Relapse Fears

    I am familiar with agoraphobia, not just as a mental health crisis responder but because my own mental illness has manifested into periods of debilitating anxiety. What I now refer to as the breakdown of 2007, was a period of my life where I was struggling with many issues and my mental health suffered greatly as a result. I found it difficult to leave my house and the comfort zone of my home. Staying home as much as possible was the only way I could maintain some sense of sanity, when I was feeling anything but sane. I lived in this state of chronic agoraphobia for many days. This turned into many months and eventually it passed the one-year mark. I left my house only when I absolutely had to, and it felt exhausting both mentally and physically. The process of trying to convince myself that I could leave my house, be okay after I leave my house, and get through the task of whatever I needed to do outside of my house was draining. Reflecting back, I feel a deep sadness for that time in my life that I felt tortured by my own brain. Eventually, I got out of that dark place that I felt cemented in for so long through counseling, self-care, my 12-step recovery program and sometimes sheer determination not to live the rest of my life that way. I had to engage in exposure therapy and be an active participant in the world that I was finding so scary to be part of. It was not an easy mission and there were times I felt suicidal, but I knew that I had to fight for my life. The agoraphobia subsided and eventually life returned to a somewhat normal rhythm. When I say normal rhythm, I mean that although generalized anxiety has never truly left me, I am able to live and thrive with anxiety now with success and ease, in comparison to that time of my life. With that being said, there have been moments that I have felt the whisper of agoraphobia try to inch its way back in my life like it was some evil gremlin. I wondered if I would have what it takes to keep it at bay. Surgeries that have kept me isolated at home for weeks and sometimes months, have tested my resiliency to return to my regular schedule of daily living. Daily living that included working outside my home, volunteering and socializing. Somehow, the thought of going back to the breakdown of 2007 has been enough to keep me vigilant with my mental health so I would not slide back into that bottomless pit of despair to that depth again. As our COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and social distancing was required, I found it easier than others to stay home, self isolate and not go out. I have jokingly shared the memes going around about us anxious folk who have been perfecting social distancing for years. While I reveled in the idea of staying in my comfort zone of home, I became increasingly aware that this situation has the potential to relapse my agoraphobia. When I have to go out, which is sometimes weeks in between, I can feel the anxiety setting in. With this realization, I have had to do a few things to stay connected and an active participant in society to ensure that I can keep my agoraphobia under control. Some of these things include: Getting out of the house once a day, even if it to just go for a drive around my subdivision or to check to mail. Going for regular walks in my neighborhood . Sitting outside every day, a few times a day sometimes. Making sure I am maintaining social relationships by Zoom or video chat. Keeping up my self care routine of online 12-step meetings, meditation and reading These few small routine tasks make a difference in my life to help me maintain some regularity, during such irregular and unique times. The fears of agoraphobia relapse have inspired me to create an accountability post each day in the “Parenting with Anxiety” Facebook group I facilitate. With the shared fears from others of anxiety taking over during this “great pause” (as I have been calling it), we are developing tasks for ourselves to commit to each day to persevere and maintain good mental wellness. Turning familiar and relatable fears into self-help solutions is proving to be a good way for individuals with anxiety to navigate through relapse concerns. Unless you have lived through agoraphobia and have managed to find ways of coping and combatting, it is difficult to explain the worry of it returning one day or escalating. Mental illness is an illness, and just like many other diseases of the body, relapse prevention and self-care are an important part of recovery long-term. View the full article
  9. The cicada, an insect with large clear wings, hibernates underground for 17 years. It takes almost two decades for this insect to slowly crawl out of the earth, to live, to breathe, to mate. As the United States slowly lifts quarantine and lockdowns, we find ourselves burrowing out of our own cocoons in which we have hunkered down to once again emerge to the light of day. We identify with the cicada in that this quarantine has surely felt like a full 17 years! And — coincidentally — it is this very year of 2020 that the broods of cicadas are emerging in droves. We emerge gradually, with trepidation, masks still looped over our ears to observe and investigate what this new terrain and new normal will look like. We learn that each region must achieve seven different metrics to become eligible for this “new normal” life. And we now refer to life as B.C. (Before Corona) and A.D. (After Disease). Of course there are the obvious anticipated joys — seeing our family and friends, watching our children hopefully going back to school or camp, putting vacation plans back on the books again, and gleefully dining out and going to movies. Yet, this sheltering at home has also made us ponder whether there have been unexpected silver linings in this quarantine — things we have learned about ourselves and our lives that we don’t want to lose. And so, we face F.A.R.O.L. — fears about reentering our lives — both personally and professionally. Gloria: “Commuting from my home on Long Island to my Manhattan office to see patients has always been part of the fabric of my life as a psychotherapist. I really never questioned it but just dutifully caught the 8:18AM every morning. Quarantining at home has made me aware of how much I actually hate that commute. I just don’t want to do it anymore. I’ve decided to give up my Manhattan office but haven’t told my patients yet. I feel guilty that I’m betraying a commitment to be there for them, and it’s made me question my attachment issues! But shedding my commute now feels more important than honoring my commitment to show up in person.” Janet: “Since I’ve been married, my husband has spent a great deal of time traveling for business in Europe. It has been a source of ongoing tension between us with my always begging him to cut down his traveling. It feels like I’ve had to raise our children pretty much all alone, and I have a great deal of resentment towards him. Now that he has been home during this COVID crisis, unable to travel, I’m not happy having him around all the time either! Although I’m getting what I said I wanted, it’s not doing the trick. I’m confused and questioning myself as to how much closeness and intimacy I really want. When we return to living our lives and Dave goes back to his business trips, I imagine my complaints about missing him will start up again, but now I’m confused about what I really want and need!” Corinne: “I finally unbraided my corn-rows during lockdown for the first time in years. My hair is now an exuberant mess of curls and twists. Every day it looks different in its newfound freedom. But in a FaceTime session with my Mom, she told me I looked like a wild disheveled woman, and I better not go back to work looking like this hot mess. At this time, when so many people are suffering with so many losses and deaths, all I’m thinking about is how I dread having to return to the real world and spend so much time and money once again to make my hair ‘obey’ in the white world.” Stacey: “I wouldn’t say I’m an alcoholic, but my lifestyle certainly involves finishing classes most nights at law school and heading to the bar with my friends for a couple of drinks. I would say that I’m basically a shy person, and I enjoy the ‘liquid courage’ of booze. Being home alone during this time has really reduced my drinking, and I feel better. But getting back to my real life after quarantine is going to lead me back to my drinking routine. I haven’t figured out how to handle that, but I have some concerns. The solitude with no pressure to socialize has been kind of a relief for me.” Gail: “My mother died in a nursing home from the coronavirus in April. I’ve been feeling like I’m living in a protective time warp — at home, with my husband, and our two young adult kids. They are caring for me and we are nestling together. I’m afraid when we are no longer having to quarantine and everybody goes back to work or school, I’m going to feel abandoned and the impact of my mother’s death will come tumbling down on top of me. I’m dreading that moment. I wish we could just stay on pause until I feel I’m ready for everyone to get going again.” Marjorie: “My biggest fear about reentry is that everyone will see that I’m the poster child for having gained that dreaded COVID-15 pounds. I’m ashamed that my anxiety caused my binge eating to kick into high gear during this time. While other people were flattening the curve, I was fattening my curves! I wish the lockdown would continue for another few months, so I could start working on getting my eating back on track.” Other fears of returning to our lives include issues of safety: How long should we continue to be wary and observant of social distancing? Should we just continue working remotely until a vaccine is available before going back to work? Will there be another wave of the virus after this one dies down? Financial issues also abound — will I still have my job and my same salary? And psychotherapists worry whether their patients will tire of remote sessions and decide to leave therapy, whether insurance will continue to pay for remote sessions, and whether, upon returning to our offices, we are liable if a patient sues us claiming they caught the virus from us. There is FOMO (fear of missing out) and now I’ve coined the term FAROL (fears about reentering our lives). Farol in Spanish means a lantern that illuminates. We therapists work with our clients to instill hope that this pandemic will pass, to strengthen their coping skills and self-care, and to find ways to make personal meaning during this time of lockdown and beyond. As we emerge from the threat and pain of this pandemic, we co-create with our patients an illuminating lantern to shine the way toward post traumatic growth and resilience. We ask how they envision what that growth would look like for them. My stepson Sean tells me, “When this is over, I want to import into my life the things I’ve discovered during lockdown that are making me happy — like family dinners and reading to the kids before bed. “Yes!” I add. “And then let’s export the things that haven’t been working — like rushing around all the time.” Sean and I laughingly agree that we will be entering the import-export business when all this is over. Albert Camus reminds us, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” And Bette Midler evokes hope as sings The Rose, “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows/ Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” I think also of the words of T.S. Eliot which seem so comforting at this time, “Teach me to care. Teach me not to care. Teach me to be still.” As we psychotherapists face reentering our lives, there will also be the loss of the wild, weird, and wonderful connections that have happened with patients on virtual reality. I am on a Zoom session with Sandra. She invites me into her Red Tent — an enclosed space she has created for herself in her bedroom by draping sheets over a make-shift scaffolding. I feel like I’m climbing into a children’s fort. Pink light suffuses Sandra’s face as the red sheets reflect the light from her window. She explains how she needed a private space away from her husband and daughter where she could draw, think, and write “bad poetry.” As she shows me her drawings, I see a shadow crossing my line of vision. I am now doing sessions from my country house and see that a deer has wandered into my garden and has begun to eat my peonies. I explain to Sandra why I must excuse myself for a minute. I shriek loudly at the deer to get out of my garden, and finally it slowly ambles away back into the forest. I yell after it, “Thank you!” and come back to the session. Sandra is laughing whole heartedly, “I’ve never heard you scream before,” Sandra says. “You’re so loud! But also hearing you thank the deer for leaving absolutely made my day!” We agree this special silver lining never would have happened during a normal Brooklyn session. View the full article
  10.  At the thought of losing a job or missing a mortgage payment, Gabe is an anxious discombobulated mess, while Lisa is cool as a cucumber. In today’s Not Crazy podcast, Gabe and Lisa ponder: Why do people have such vastly different ways of reacting to the world? They also discuss — with the special flare that only a divorced couple has — the good old days when Gabe would have full-blown panic attacks and Lisa had to get them through it. How did they handle these scary moments? Is it ever OK to feel anger toward the panicky person? And what if the panicky person accidentally causes harm — should they have to apologize? Tune in as Gabe and Lisa share their personal panic experiences. (Transcript Available Below) Subscribe to Our Show! And Please Remember to Review Us! About The Not Crazy podcast Hosts Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Lisa is the producer of the Psych Central podcast, Not Crazy. She is the recipient of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Above and Beyond” award, has worked extensively with the Ohio Peer Supporter Certification program, and is a workplace suicide prevention trainer. Lisa has battled depression her entire life and has worked alongside Gabe in mental health advocacy for over a decade. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband; enjoys international travel; and orders 12 pairs of shoes online, picks the best one, and sends the other 11 back. Computer Generated Transcript for “Panic Attack” Episode Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you. Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a psych central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts. Gabe: Hey, everyone, you’re listening to the Not Crazy podcast. I’m your host, Gabe Howard, and I’m here with my co-host, Lisa. Lisa: Hi, I’m Lisa. Gabe: Once again, you say this every single week. I just told everybody you were Lisa. You can’t say hi, I’m Lisa. Lisa: Ok, look, I give up. I don’t know. I need you all to help me out. Can someone in the audience send me something better to say? OK, email me at show@PsychCentral.com. And tell me what I should be saying. Gabe: Why don’t I just hire them if they know what to say? Lisa: Oh, harsh, man, harsh. Gabe: Why am I going to hire you? I just. I’m going to get a new co-host. Lisa: Yeah, right. Gabe: You’ll be applying at show@PsychCentral.com. Lisa: Send your resume. Gabe: Since you already know what to say. I don’t need Lisa. Lisa: I just don’t have that part. I’ve got the rest. Sort of. Gabe: Lisa, I just I bring this up because, I know I’m not your boss, but if my boss, my partner discussed firing me, I’d have an immediate panic or anxiety attack. That the anxiety would be so high it would just like I don’t even know. And yet you’re just sitting there like, who cares? Lisa: Well, I mean, it’s not that big of a deal, you know? Gabe: All right. Lisa: I mean, it won’t kill you. Gabe: What? That’s not the only factor that we should consider. Lisa: But it should be. Gabe: The world is not. But, it’s not because. But you are very Zen. And of course, the difference is, I have panic and anxiety disorder. And you do not. What is it like for you? What’s it like for you to be told that you’re going to be fired and just not care? Because I don’t know what that’s like. I have Lisa: Well. Gabe: I am already e-mailing every boss and customer I’ve ever had, asking them not to fire me. And it didn’t happen. Lisa: Right. Gabe: It didn’t even happen. Lisa: Well, I guess you’ve told me in the past. I just didn’t care enough about things. I think I just don’t care about things. Gabe: You’re not worried that I’m going to fire you. And you also think that, well, if I get fired, I’ll find something else to do. You’re not having a panic attack or anxiety about it. This is your personality. You’re a very calm and chill person. You just chill, you’re uber chill. Lisa: When have you ever thought that? When have you ever thought that I was chill? You don’t think that. Gabe: In regards to this specific thing, Lisa: In terms of losing a job? Yes. Gabe: You are chill. Lisa: Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah, because it doesn’t matter. Gabe: Whenever customers threaten you, whenever bosses threaten you, whenever there’s a rumor that you might be downsized, you’re just very laid back. Lisa: Yeah, I don’t care about that. Gabe: I start crying immediately. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. You care about that a lot. Yeah. Gabe: I do, and I think well, what did I do wrong? How did I? It’s very time consuming to constantly worry that I’m screwing up. And the panic attacks are. Well, they’re horrific. Lisa: Mm-hmm. Gabe: They’re obviously horrific. I mean, I, my heart starts to race. My vision gets blurry. I sweat through everything. It’s. I do a lot to avoid panic attacks by avoiding situations. Lisa: Yes. Gabe: You don’t have to do any of that. You can, you would make a good lawyer in a way that I would not. I’m a much better arguer. But you’re unflappable. Lisa: Oh, that’s so nice of you to say. To be fair, there are some situations I avoid because I don’t like them. Gabe: But we’re talking about panic and anxiety. Everybody avoids situations they don’t like, Lisa. Lisa: I’ve actually wondered about this because it’s not so much that I don’t have panic or anxiety as it is that I don’t care about most things. And the example I always give, you’ll remember years ago when we were married, there was one month when we were having trouble paying our mortgage. And you were really freaked out. And I said, yeah, this isn’t that important. I said, we don’t need to worry about this. I don’t know why you’re so upset. This isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t going to kill us. And you said, oh, so what? So as long as we still have our health, we just don’t have to worry about anything? And I understood that you were trying to make some sort of sarcastic point, but yeah. Yeah. Gabe: I wasn’t making a sarcastic point at all. Lisa: Yes, exactly. As long as you have your health, you do not have to worry about anything. Gabe: But most people don’t go from perfectly healthy to unhealthy. There are steps. And one of the steps that puts you in harm’s way is not having a safe place to live. Lisa: I know you told me all that at the time. Gabe: I put a lot of value on being able to pay my bills because I don’t want to be evicted. I don’t want to be homeless. Lisa: I didn’t want any of those things either. I just said we weren’t going to die from it. We could make it to the other side. It wasn’t the end of the world as long as we were still alive. It didn’t matter. Gabe: You know, Lisa, this reminds me of there’s a very old you know, it’s or what’s a, what’s a word for, like, wisdom? Lisa: Adage? Gabe: No, not adage. Lisa: Proverb? Gabe: Yep, proverb. Lisa: Proverb, okay. Gabe: There’s this old proverb that says that the reason a bird can sleep while resting on a branch is not because he has faith in the branch. It’s because he has faith in his wings. And I like that you brought up that story because it really it shows Lisa: That’s sweet. Gabe: I have no faith in my wings. You have complete faith in your wings. And the way that I Lisa: Yes. Gabe: Manage my anxiety is to have complete faith in the branch. So what I was trying to explain to you is, look, our branch is in danger. And you were like, hey, if the branch breaks, we’ll just fly to another branch. Chill. Lisa: Right. Gabe: Right. Lisa: This is a great proverb. Gabe: The question that I’m getting at is, why are you this way? Look, I’m not trying to be a jerk by saying this, but I feel that I have way more survival skills than you. Like on a. Lisa: You do not. Gabe: But I do. Come on. Admit it. Lisa: Really? Gabe: On a factual basis. Honestly, if you were trapped in another country and you needed somebody to get you out, who would you call? Lisa: You. Gabe: Right. Lisa: But that doesn’t show that you have more survival skills than me. If you were trapped in another country, who would you call? Gabe: I would call you, but Lisa: Ok. Gabe: I wouldn’t get trapped in another country because I have skills that would make sure that I never got trapped in. How about this? Lisa: If you needed something repaired in your house, who would you call? Gabe: Ok, fine, I understand what you’re saying. Good point. I asked it wrong. Who is more likely to piss off the locals and get stranded in another country and then not be able to get out and need to call somebody? Lisa: I feel like that’s a trick question because you never go anywhere. Gabe: It’s not a trick question. Who is more likely to get stuck in a situation that they need the other one to get them out of? Lisa: All right. Gabe: You piss off everybody. Lisa: Well. Gabe: You are constantly calling me and saying, I don’t know what to do. Bail me out. What have I ever. Lisa: Well, I want social advice. Gabe: That’s what I’m talking about. Socially, you are incredibly awkward, but strangely, you have no anxiety about it whatsoever. How? What is that like? What is that like to have so much unearned faith in your ability to manage? Whereas I have earned skills. You know that I am very good at public relations, marketing, with people, networking, social skills. You know how good I am at it. There is a reason that I am a public speaker, writer and a successful podcast host. And yet I am positive and I have so much anxiety that I’m going to fail at any moment. You, on the other hand, made my parents angry over a misunderstanding. Fifteen years ago. Lisa: Oh, really? Really? That’s where you’re gonna go with this? Really? You want to talk about what you did to my parents? Really? Gabe: Yes, I bought them a very expensive trip. Lisa: Ok. Not that one, the other one. Gabe: Cheated on their daughter? Lisa: Oh, anyway. All right. What are you saying? Gabe: I’m not sure where you’re going with this, but. Lisa: I yeah. Anyway. Gabe: I am better socially, yet I am anxious about it. Lisa: You are better socially. Gabe: You acknowledge that you are worse socially, yet you are not anxious about it. That’s the whole takeaway. I don’t know why you’re fighting me on this. You do not have anxiety. Lisa: Some of that is protective, if you’re bad at something, you can’t be anxious about it or you’ll die. I can’t possibly be anxious about my behavior socially because then I won’t be able to function at all. Gabe: Well. But listen to what you said. You just said that it’s protective. The reason that you don’t have anxiety is to protect yourself. Well, the reason that I don’t have cancer is to protect myself. You can’t control what health problems you get. You’re literally Lisa: Well, that’s fair. Gabe: Saying that you are keeping anxiety at bay. Well, just do that with everything. I am keeping COVID-19 at bay. Otherwise, I will have COVID-19. I mean, just you can’t not. You can’t choose which mental health issues to have. Lisa: That’s true. Gabe: What is it, mind over matter, Lisa? Ooh, are you doing yoga? Are you doing yoga? Wait, you went for a walk in the woods, because that’s what an antidepressant is. What are you doing here? Lisa: Just cheer up. Gabe: Yeah, you’re literally saying I don’t have anxiety because it’s a protective thing. Wow. Why didn’t I think of that? You just cured me. Lisa: What I am saying is that you are much better socially than I am. Like I call you a lot because you always know what to write in the e-mail to apologize and stuff. But in terms. You’re super good at that. Gabe: I am. Lisa: But when it comes to. Gabe: I am super good at apologizing for Lisa. Lisa: You are. You are. He writes the best e-mails for this purpose. I put them in my own words. Anyway. Gabe: I just, I’m thinking of all the people listening to this that have got an apology e-mail from you. They’re going to be like, damn it. She didn’t mean it. Lisa: I meant it. I just didn’t say it right. That’s why Gabe said it. Gabe: Wow. Lisa: You do that all the time. You’re great at that. Gabe: Wow. Lisa: Anywho. The point is, when it comes to life skills, you don’t know how to do anything. You’re terrible at cleaning. You can’t repair anything. Remember the whole thing about how I have a drill? You don’t have a drill. Anytime something breaks in your house, you call me to fix it. Gabe: Yeah, that means I know how to fix it. I call you. Lisa: Really? Do you remember that time that you literally needed to hang something up and you called me to do it? Gabe: Do you remember that time? Lisa: It was the saddest thing anyone had ever seen. Gabe: That you needed to turn on your computer? And you called me to do it? Lisa: Well, yeah, you’re good at computer things. Gabe: So that’s my point, though. Lisa: You’re my computer person. There’s no reason for me to learn these skills when you already have them. Gabe: Yeah. There’s no reason for me. Lisa: Division of labor. Gabe: To learn how to hang a picture when this is a skill that you already have. We trade this. Lisa: Oh, that’s not bad logic, actually. Gabe: The point that I’m making here is I know we’ve gotten Lisa: You have one? Gabe: A little far afield. I do have one. It’s that you acknowledge that you are good at things. I don’t acknowledge that I’m good at things, even the things that I know that I’m good at, I have anxiety about. Lisa: That’s true. Gabe: And even when I do acknowledge that I’m good at something. It’s the logic part of my brain that’s like, Gabe, you know you’re good at this. But at the same time, I don’t sleep on that branch because it’s gonna break. And it’s, I’m in immediate danger all of the time. And you don’t feel that way. Lisa: Sometimes, to be fair, it works to tell you that, like, if you’re nervous about something and I say, look, you’re really good at this, you’re going to do a great job, sometimes it works. Not always, but sometimes. Gabe: The logical part of my brain and one of my coping mechanisms is to apply that logic. Gabe, will this kill you? Gabe, is it true? Gabe, how do people feel about it? And I ask, you know, my friends and family a lot. Are you mad at me? Say, Lisa, are you mad at me? And you’re like, no. And I say to my wife, you know, wife, are you mad at me? And she’ll say, Yes. And I’ll say, OK, why? And she’ll say, Because of this. And I’m like, Oh, my anxiety said that you were mad at me for this other thing. So that’s good to know. And talking it out does help me. This is a coping skill that I have learned and honed over, frankly, over the last decade. But panic attacks. They come up so fast that logic doesn’t work. The other day we were watching a television show and in the television show, in the final scene, a whole bunch of high school kids got in what can only be described as a karate battle. Lisa: Guess which show? Gabe: I do like the show. It’s a really, really good show. But all of these teenagers, and they are teenagers, all of these teenagers are beating on each other. Now they’re using karate skills. And it’s this dojo versus that dojo. But they’re in high school and the other high school kids are cheering them on. Nobody is making any effort to break this up, including the teachers. And I had an immediate panic attack because I was one of the kids that got beat up in high school while the other students and the teachers did nothing. And I kept trying to say, that’s just a TV show. I kept trying to use logic. But as the fight wore on and on and on, I could not get over the fact that minors, children, were hurting one another and nobody seemed to care. And this all culminated in one of the kids falling off of a balcony or something and landing on the steps. And at the end of the season, I mean, I don’t know what it’s actually going to be because on TV you can fall two stories onto steps and just have a bruise. But in real life, that kid’s paralyzed for the rest of his life because the students and teachers did not care enough to stop this brutal beating that was happening in their school. Lisa: Yes. And I really thought you would like it. And in retrospect, I should have known. Gabe: I did like it. Lisa: That has happened to you before when stuff like that’s been on TV. And I didn’t even think about it. I’m sorry about that. I can tell even now, as you’re telling the story, you’re still upset about it. It’s still bothering you. You can hear it in your voice. Yeah. In retrospect, I should have known that that was gonna get you. Gabe: Listen, this is this is part of living in the world. You don’t owe me an apology. The show doesn’t owe me an apology. The world doesn’t have to adapt to Gabe. Gabe has to adapt to the world. I suppose you can argue that this is really the benefits of a content warning and trigger warnings and reading the description of shows, because maybe I would have been more prepared for it. But this Lisa: That’s true. Gabe: Is it. This is where panic attacks are so horrible. Now, you can also argue, let’s be a little bit fair, I could’ve just turned it off. Lisa: You could have seen it coming. Gabe: I could’ve said, you know, this is bullshit. I didn’t see it coming. I just thought it would be quick and it would move the story along. This was an epic battle. This was an epic fight scene that lasted. Lisa: The choreography was amazing. Gabe: It was. It really, really was incredible. I just couldn’t get past it. Lisa: I know. Gabe: I couldn’t get past the memories of my own life. And that’s where that particular panic attack came from. And it was really, really bad. Lisa was nice. She brought me all kinds of water and she gave me a hug and she told me that I would be okay. And these are the panic attacks that, like you said, you can see coming. But I’ve had the same panic attacks with no, just and I still don’t know where they came from. But, Lisa, still, you’ve had trauma in your life. You’ve had bad Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Things happen in your life. You’ve had things that you don’t want to revisit. And when you see depictions of them in popular media, you don’t have a panic attack. Why is that? Why do I Lisa: No. Gabe: When remembering or seeing depictions of my past trauma, just, my heart races. I sweat. I just, I get dizzy. I could not move. I could not move. How come when you see depictions in popular culture or in the media of traumatic events that have happened to you, you don’t seem to care? You just watch it and you’re like, yeah, something like that happened to me. I’m cool. Lisa: That is an excellent point, and I’ve never really thought about it. I think a couple of things. One, I think it just happens a lot less often to me. It’s not that I don’t react. It’s that there aren’t as many things that set me off. Gabe: Well, but do you ever have a panic attack or are you ever watching something and Lisa: No, Gabe: Have a panic attack? Lisa: Not exactly. It’s not completely true that it doesn’t bother me. There are some things what starts happening on TV and I go, okay, that’s it, I’m done. I just can’t watch it anymore. But it’s not panic. You are right about that. It’s not panic. It’s more just incredible anger or upset-ness. And I think, why am I doing this to myself? Why am I making myself this angry? So I just leave the room. But one, it doesn’t happen very often. And two, it’s not panic. You’re right. It’s more anger. And I’m not having an anger attack for some reason. I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess this is what mental illness is. It kind of happens kind of randomly and you can’t control what you have. Gabe: Do you ever have like? Obviously, we’ve talked about the panic attack that I had because of that show and there’s a reason. But I also have panic attacks that I, they’re not connected to anything. Do you ever have, like, anger or rage attacks that aren’t connected to anything? Lisa: No, Gabe: Or are they always connected to something? Lisa: They’re always connected to something. Always. I’m never just sitting around and suddenly like, oh, my God, I’m so angry. No, that never happens. Gabe: Panic attacks are really insidious for me because more often than not, they come out of nowhere. I use this particular example because, one, it’s recent in my memory and two, it had the added bonus of you being there. Lisa: Well, that hasn’t happened lately. You don’t have near as much as you did when we were together. You know, I used to see you do this a lot more. It had been so long since I’d seen you have a full scale panic attack, I had almost forgotten how horrible it is and how terrible you look. I felt kind of bad about that. Gabe: I know how I feel about having a panic attack. What’s it like for you? You’re just minding your own business and suddenly your friend turns into a giant ball of mumbling word salad water. Lisa: It’s difficult to watch. You look horrible and like I said, I’d forgotten how bad you look. You get that real waxy, cast to your skin and you start to look real gray. And we’ve been many places where this has happened and people have wanted to call 911 or something for you. And I assume as you get older, they’re thinking that you’re having a heart attack. And yeah, yeah, I can see why they think that. You look terrible. You look like something really horrible is happening and you can’t hide it. Gabe: What do you do about it? I don’t remember what you do because I’m focused on me, like you said, if I look horrible, imagine how I feel. So I have no idea what you do during this time. I knew you brought me water. I’d like to think maybe you did more than that. You brought me water and gave me a hug during the worst panic attack you’ve ever had. That’s not true. Or is it? Lisa: This was not the worst panic attack you’ve ever had, but it was a bad one. Gabe: Ok, but you’re avoiding the question of what did you do? Is the answer you just kept watching the show and ignored me. Lisa: Not once I figured out what was happening. It’s, there’s not a lot that you can do. And trust me, if there was, I would have figured it out by now. You become very. I don’t know, I guess inward? Like you draw into yourself. And I always feel like there’s more that you could be doing or more that we could be doing together. And it’s impossible to make you do anything. Like, I always feel like, oh, my God, let’s just leave the situation. You know, we’re at a sporting event. We’re out. Let’s just go home. Why are we standing here? And you will not do it. It’s almost impossible to get you to move. You just stay in the exact same spot, no matter how difficult or poor of a decision that spot is. And you can’t get you to do anything. And obviously, things like calm down, it’s OK. It’ll be alright, that doesn’t work. Gabe: Well, hang on a sec. OK. So. Yes. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever tell anybody to calm down, ever. It’s the literal equivalent of dumping gas on a fire to make the fire go down. But putting that aside, you don’t seem to have a great list of what to do because. Well, frankly, there’s Lisa: There’s not a lot to do. Gabe: Yeah. There’s just not a great list to do. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: What are some things not to do? What is some advice that you have for people like, hey, if your friend or loved one is having a panic attack, don’t do the following things because that’s stupid? Lisa: Don’t yell. Don’t. They don’t like that. Gabe: Geez, I don’t know why our marriage failed. Don’t yell at the sick guy. It’s sad that you needed to say that. But OK, Lisa: Ok. Gabe: Don’t yell at your sick loved one. Got it. Lisa: Ok, but look at it from my perspective. And I know that this sounds terrible or this sounds selfish, but look at it from my perspective. OK, I want to go to the play or go to the hockey game or go to the party or do whatever it is that I want to do that we have agreed to do. That we have been planning to do. And now you have a panic attack. And that means I can’t do the fun thing that I’ve been looking forward to. And I understand that you can’t control it, but you feel like, I feel like you have more control over this than you would if you had cancer or if you suddenly became nauseous or something like that. Right? So I feel like, oh, my God. Control this better. Push through it. We’ve been looking forward to this. We paid money for this. And you’re messing with my fun here. OK, so it’s hard to get over that. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to accept. I’m upset for myself as well. And then. Gabe: I’ve never really thought about it from your point of view, and you’re right. If you and I are out at an event and I have a panic attack that ruins it for you, it ruins the events Lisa: Yes. Gabe: And. But you. This is. How come I don’t. Lisa: Even if it’s my event, like what if we went to something for me? You know, I’ve been looking forward to this play that you didn’t really want to go to, but I got the tickets and I’ve had them for six months. Or, of course, we’re visiting my family. We’re at a family wedding or a family gathering. And now you’re a wreck. Or my personal favorite, we’re visiting your family. And so that just puts this incredible burden on me. Because this is something you’re supposed to be doing. And let’s say there’s some responsibility that you have when the panic attack comes on, like you’re supposed be taking care of a kid and you just check out. And now it’s my problem. It seems so incredibly unfair and it’s a lot of extra work for me. Gabe: It’s always interesting to hear the other side. Right. There nothing that I can say to that. I feel terrible. And that’s how come. That’s Lisa: I know. Gabe: How come you said you, Gabe, you won’t leave for nothing. You won’t move for nothing. Yeah. I don’t want to move because if we leave the event, then you won’t get to see it anymore. So I am trying to get through it. I think this is a core misunderstanding and why Lisa: Well. Gabe: I don’t want to move. There’s also I can’t. I can’t move. Lisa: Ok. That’s not bad logic. I hadn’t considered that might be one of your reasons. But, don’t do that. You’re not helping. You know, that is not helping. It is better to get out. Gabe: It may be. Lisa: But again, you won’t. Remember that time you had a panic attack in the bathroom at a Wendy’s? OK. And I could not get you out of there for nothing. And that was not ideal. You just can’t stay in the bathroom at a Wendy’s having a panic attack for a half an hour. Yeah. Gabe: This is where it really sucks to have mental illness, because listen to what you said, it is not ideal for you to stay in a bathroom for a half hour. You can’t do it and you can hear it in your voice. You’re annoyed that I tried to camp out Lisa: I know. Gabe: In a Wendy’s. Remember that time that you refused to leave an international flight, airplane bathroom in violation of TSA law because they were trying to land because you were so airsick. You still, to this day, even though you are violating federal law by trying to stay in that bathroom, you still feel like you were right because you were sick. Lisa: Ok. I could not stop vomiting. Gabe: I could not stop the panic attack. Lisa: That’s all I’m saying. I don’t know what that woman wanted. What did she want me to do? I could not stop vomiting. Gabe: I could not stop the panic attack. Lisa: I know, I know. Gabe: Look, obviously I know it’s got to be horrible to be sick and just want to be not in an airplane. And you felt safe in the bathroom. Just like I felt safe in the bathroom. Now, I was not violating federal law and nobody was trying to land a plane. But you still felt like I should have moved faster and gotten out of the bathroom. Now, you though, you look at it completely different because I don’t know, maybe you had a physical illness? Lisa: I know. Gabe: Like that. Like, is that maybe? Lisa: Yeah, I know, Gabe: You’re pushing? Hmmm? Lisa: Again, I understand, and I do know that intellectually, but in the moment. And it’s hard to get this out of your mind. You feel like you should be able to control it more. You feel like if you tried harder, you, Gabe, tried harder, you would be able to get more control over the situation and fix it or at least make it better. And I know. I know that’s not completely reasonable. This obviously is one reason why we’re divorced. But I just can’t get over that feeling. I can’t get over that thought, especially in the midst of it that, oh, come on, pull it together or at least pull it together more. Maybe you can’t get over it completely, but you could certainly stand up and walk out. Gabe: Remember at the start of the show when I said, which one of us is more likely to be trapped in a foreign country by creating an international incident? Lisa: Uh-huh. Gabe: And you have just said that you violated federal law in another country and refused to leave a bathroom while also chastising me for not leaving a Wendy’s bathroom, I might add. Now, can Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Can maybe people understand that of the two of us, you are more likely to be arrested on foreign soil? Lisa: If I could have stopped vomiting, I would have left the bathroom. It’s not like I wanted to stay there. Gabe: If I could have stopped my heart from racing, stopped from sweating. Been able to stand up on my own feet, which were wobbly, end of the vertigo, and been able to focus, see and think straight, I would have left the Wendy’s bathroom, though. The reality is, is listen, we’re both right and we’re both wrong. That is why there’s no good solution here. We’re both sick. I would like to point out that society in general is probably going to agree with you more. Well, what could the woman do, she was vomiting? Lisa: I know. Gabe: And not agree with me. And this is, this is why the world is just, well, frankly, tough for people with mental illness. And I know. I know that I wrecked plans for you because I know that if you were vomiting and we had to leave a hockey game or a Rolling Stones concert or something that I spent a lot of money on and was looking forward to, I would be mad or upset or at the very least annoyed. And you only ever got sick once. I got sick all the time. Really, the question is, and this is serious question, why did you keep buying tickets to events? Because I was having these panic attacks in crowds at your events 80% of the time. Why did we keep going? It’s like you were setting me up to fail. Lisa: Was it that much? Gabe: It was it was at least 50% of the time. Lisa: What are you supposed to do? Give up your life? Stop going out? Gabe: Maybe. Lisa: Like that was one of the things people said at the time that people who have panic attacks, at a certain point, you stop doing things not because you’re afraid of the thing. You’re not afraid to go to the Blue Jackets game. You’re afraid that you’ll have a panic attack at the Blue Jackets game. So you start avoiding activities because of the fear of the panic attacks. You’re not afraid of the thing anymore. Gabe: Blue Jackets is a hockey team for those that don’t knows. There’s like 18,000 people there and tickets are hundreds of dollars. It’s ridiculous. And yeah, I stopped going to a lot of things because I was afraid of. Lisa: Right. But you weren’t afraid of the thing, you were afraid of the panic attacks. So it becomes the panic attack that is limiting your life. And whare you supposed to do with that? Should you lean into the curve and just start curtailing your life because you’re afraid you’ll have panic attacks? How long is that going to last? Pretty soon, you’re gonna be housebound. I don’t know if that is a good strategy or even something you should want to try, to stay home to avoid panic attacks. Because where’s that going to end? Gabe: You obviously don’t think that’s a good idea, and I benefited from it because you kept buying tickets. We kept going to plays, we kept going to concerts. We got on airplanes and flew to other cities and went on vacations because you just decided, I’m not letting Gabe’s mental illness and potential panic attacks get in the way. And I had panic attacks on almost every single one. In fact, there’s a funny story. I was invited to a conference for people with mental illness, and I was having so many panic attacks, we’re pretty much stuck in the room. And Lisa called. Well, well, Lisa, you called your friend. And what did she say? That the whole reason you’re there is because he has panic disorder? Lisa: I called and said, I can’t believe this guy is doing this. He’s mucking up our trip, blah, blah, blah. She goes, you know, the reason you’re on that trip is because he’s mentally ill. So you’re going to be mad at him for being mentally ill on the trip? And I was like, huh? Well, that’s good logic, I guess. But I almost feel sick to my stomach even thinking about that trip, because when you had a panic attack on the airplane and it was so horrifying and I was so afraid for you. And, you know, this was 15 years ago. And so only a few weeks earlier, a man with bipolar disorder had been shot and killed by air marshals because he had a panic attack on a plane and people freaked out. And I almost cried listening to the story because it was exactly like every time it had happened to you where the person was with him, his wife was saying things like, it’s okay, we’re gonna be home soon. It’s all right. You’re all right. And I still all these years later, I still feel sick just thinking about it. It’s horrible to watch. And I was so afraid for you. And I was just so afraid that something like that would happen. Gabe: This was only a couple of years after September 11, and much like the other gentleman, you know, I’m a big guy. I’m a loud guy. And I’m acting extraordinarily irrationally. And the entire country is on high alert for people who are acting irrationally on airplanes. It reminds me, several years ago I was coming back from a conference and a woman had a panic attack on a plane and she tried to get into the cockpit. She thought that the cockpit door was the bathroom door and she was pounding on it and screaming and pulling on it. And she was very, very fortunate. One, she probably weighed 90 pounds soaking wet. And they came to the back and said, hey, we need to move this woman to the back. Can you sit in the front? And I overheard them say this to the person who is directly behind me. And I said, I work in mental health and I would be happy to sit with her. I’m sorry this happened. It sounds like a mental health issue. And the stewardess said, I don’t know what it is. This has never happened before. But if you will keep tabs on her, this would probably go a lot smoother. And I said, OK. And she sat by the window, me in the middle seat. And two hours later we landed. And of course, she was you know, they had to have an air marshal escort her off of the plane. I don’t know what happened after that, but I do think about this a lot. You know that this woman did try to get into the cockpit of an airplane in flight. What would have happened if she was a large black man? What would have happened if she was a large white guy? What would have happened if she was a man? Apparently? Lisa: What would have happened if she was you? Gabe: I don’t know. Lisa: You’re a big guy. And so when you start acting erratically, it freaks people out. People get nervous. They get upset. And frankly, they get scared. And I worry about that. Not so much now, but I worried about that for you. Quite a lot on that particular flight. It was horrible. Gabe: I also wonder about that woman. What would happen if I wasn’t on the flight and I don’t mean me because I think I’m. Lisa: Yeah. You helped. Gabe: I’m fantastic. It’s because I have specialized training. I’m a certified peer supporter. I have skills in leading a support group, working with people with mental health issues. I myself have a mental illness. I know de-escalation, etc. So I offered to help. And I just chittered at her and we talked. And whenever she would ask questions or try to get up, I would put her focus on something else. And she sat there for the entire trip and did not move. Well, what if she would have sat all alone and the person next to her would have been annoyed by her? Afraid of her? And that would have, you know, ramped up her annoyance? Because you can feel that, you’re so packed in. These are the things that cause more anxiety and more panic. And what if she would’ve started kicking or lashing out? I mean, again, she’s very tiny. And I don’t know that she could have hurt anybody. But I do know that she can be arrested for assault. I don’t know if she got arrested for trying to get into the cockpit. I honestly don’t know. And they would not tell me. And that is probably reasonable. The woman has rights. I don’t know, I hope that she got the help that she needed and she was OK. But these are the things that weigh heavy on my mind. And, Lisa, I just you knew that whole story and you still saw the greater good of getting me on that plane. I don’t know if you just really Lisa: Well. Gabe: Wanted to go to San Francisco, but if you would not have done that, I would not travel the country giving speeches all by myself right now. Lisa: You are much better. Gabe: I’m not much better. I’m perfect. Lisa: I cannot emphasize enough the difference between then and now. You used to be completely incapacitated by your panic attacks. I mean, you did have periods where you essentially could not leave the house. And you have made, I don’t want to say recovery, because that’s not quite the right word. But you are much, much better than you ever were back then to the point where when you had a panic attack last week, it took me a while to figure out what it was. It had been so long since I’d seen one. There’s just a huge difference in your stability now. 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. Lisa: And we’re back talking about panic attacks. Gabe: I am extraordinarily thankful that you kept buying tickets. I’m extraordinarily thankful that you supported me in a partnership. You didn’t yell at me and tell me to calm down. You didn’t treat me poorly. You did get annoyed because you’re human. But you really probably handled it as best that anybody could. And we talked about it a lot. And I learned more and more coping skills by going to therapy, by adjusting my medication and by trying again. And you gave me the courage to try again. Like you said, people stop going places because they’re afraid of the panic attack, not because they’re afraid of the event or the venue or even the people there. You helped me go again and again and again. And I don’t know if it’s exposure therapy. I don’t know if I’m using that correctly. But without you, I would not have tried again. And now I can enjoy flights and travel and concerts and plays, and I can really just enjoy life to the fullest. It’s interesting that you brought up recovery because on one hand, I immediately wanted to interject. I’m in recovery. What are you talking about? But then I just had a panic attack. It’s not 100 percent. You can’t call yourself in recovery if you have zero symptoms of mental illness because that’s an improbable, likely impossible goal. Do you consider me to be in recovery with panic? And I’m asking your opinion. Lisa: Well, okay, that’s going to be yet another topic that we add, the whole definition of recovery. That’s a whole debate in mental health circles. I would say that definitely you still have panic disorder. You still have panic attacks. But it’s almost, not all the way, but almost, inconsequential at this point. It has very little impact on your life these days. How many panic attacks do you have? I mean, again, I don’t live with you. Less than once a month? Gabe: Probably, yeah. Lisa: Once every couple of months? Gabe: I probably have 12 a year. I have slightly more around the holidays. Lisa: Are they not as bad as they used to be, like are the individual panic attacks themselves lesser? Gabe: No. When I was having one a day, you know, again, we talk about spectrums a lot. When I was having one a day, they were pretty mild. They were panic attacks and they were problematic, but they were smaller. And now I pretty much only have four alarm panic attacks. Now, having ten to twelve four alarm panic attacks a year seems like a lot. But I really did used to have one every day or two or three a day or. I haven’t ran out of a job in years. Remember that time I quit the job from the parking lot? Lisa: Yes. Gabe: Because of the panic attack? Lisa: Yes, I do. Gabe: And almost wrecked the car on the way home because I should not have been driving? But I didn’t know. Lisa: That’s another thing you always did that annoyed me. You’d be like, oh, no, I’m fine to drive. No, you’re not. You’re too sick to stay at the hockey game, but you’re fine to drive? That’s just stupid. But, hey, I’m over that now. That was 15 years ago. Not still mad. Anyway, Gabe: But you should have been mad. You’re not wrong. Lisa: I was mad. Gabe: That anger led to a good place because I should not have been driving and you stopped me from driving. To this day, I will not drive when I have a panic attack. Lisa: I go back and forth between being angry at you and feeling like that’s unreasonable because on the one hand, it kind of seems like it’s unreasonable to be angry at you for having a panic attack. But on the other hand, it kind of feels like it’s not unreasonable. So, yeah. Gabe: This is not clean. Listen, I was angry at you for forcing a stewardess. An air marshal? I don’t know who it was that was pounding Lisa: It was a stewardess. Gabe: On the door, saying loudly So everybody in the plane could hear. Ma’am, we will not land if you don’t get out and you will delay this flight by an hour. But I wasn’t even on the plane. All right. Just hearing the story later made me angry that you would jeopardize a flight with three hundred people on it. You can hear me getting mad now. How could you inconvenience all those poor people that had been on a plane for 11 hours? Because, oh, I’m throwing up and I don’t want to do it in front of people. Oh, my God. Lisa: That wasn’t why. Gabe: Just. Just. That’s it. So. Yeah. Lisa: I didn’t want to throw up on the stewardess or on the guy I was sitting next to who was a stranger. Sorry about that, by the way. Poor thing. Gabe: So you were going to leave a plane in the air? Lisa: Well, I didn’t understand that until she started yelling at me. Gabe: The point that I’m making is you can hear me as you are explaining this to me, just thinking, wow, you are incredibly unreasonable. But I go back and forth. Lisa: And selfish and inconsiderate. Gabe: And selfish and inconsiderate. But logically, that’s. You didn’t know what was happening. You didn’t know that you were jeopardizing the flight from landing. I understand why you feel this way. I do. It took me a long time to understand it. But just because I am upset that you did this or you’re upset that I did this, just because your feelings are reasonable doesn’t mean they’re right. Lisa: Like I said, I go back and forth with it. I still am angry with you and I can understand some of the arguments intellectually that it’s not reasonable to be mad at you. But, yeah, I’m still mad. I still feel it. And, yeah, I understand what you’re saying about your feelings aren’t right. But how do you not listen to your feelings, you know? I mean, how do you ignore your own feelings? Gabe: Your gut and your feelings are not the end all be all of the world. Because my gut has told me a lot of things that have turned out to be very incorrect. Lisa: It feels like they are. Yeah. Gabe: My gut has told me to hit and I lost all $25. I follow the logic of blackjack, you know, hit on this. Don’t hit on this. Play the odds and I win a lot. So clearly the feeling of whether or not to hit is not how I should be gambling. And you know what builds casinos? People that use their gut to gamble. You know who else builds casinos? People who use a logic and a system to gamble. Everybody who gambles helps build casinos. But Lisa: These are good examples. Gabe: The best way to play blackjack is to put the odds in your favor. And the odds being in your favor is just intellect and logic. There’s no feelings involved. But you know as well as I do, everybody sitting at that table, their gut starts to tell them. Lisa: Yeah. Gabe: Their gut tells them to hit. And you know what happens when they listen to their gut? Sometimes they win. Lisa: Yeah, that throws off the whole system. Gabe: And that’s why they believe their gut. Don’t believe your gut, your gut is wrong. We need to follow logic more than we do. I know that it’s hard. I want you to know that logically, I know that you weren’t trying to do anything wrong. And I know that logically, you know that I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. And this is what makes this so complicated, right? It doesn’t matter how we logically feel. Emotions get the better of us all the time. All the time. You know, logically, I know that I am going to outlive my parents, but I don’t feel that’s right. I just don’t. I’m not prepared for it. I don’t want it to happen. I want all of us to live forever. But logically, I know it’s going to happen. But my gut tells me that it’s not gonna. We’re gonna be together forever. And most of us listen to our gut. And that’s why things like death hit us so hard. Because even though we all know what’s going to happen, none of us prepare for it because we don’t care. We go with our feelings that things are fine now and they’re going to be fine forever. And that’s a problem for another day. I think it’s a lot like that. Lisa, I need to say again, I’m not trying to belabor the point, but I might be an anxiety ridden panic attack, having housebound agoraphobic if you didn’t keep helping me get out. My advice to listeners is, you know, find a buddy. Find a buddy that’s willing to tolerate it and go out as much as you can. All the places that gave you panic attacks. Go there again. And if you have a panic attack again, go there again. If there is any secret to my success, it’s that Lisa stuck around and kept helping me. Lisa: You realize this is the first and only time you’ve ever said this. Gabe: Well, yeah, I’m doing it publicly, so I sound really good. As soon as we’re done recording, I’m going to say that, hey, I only did that to sound good on the air. Lisa: One of the things that would make me so angry back then was that you never apologized. When we had to leave or stop doing or whatever, you never said you were sorry. And if I would say something like, screw you, buddy. You would say, you can’t blame me. It’s not fair of you to be mad at me for being sick. Gabe: Yeah, isn’t this? Lisa: And maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. But you never apologized. That really pissed me off. Gabe: I now understand this. When I put myself in other people’s shoes, the world looks a lot different. But I was so busy protecting myself and caring for myself, and I could not understand why you were mad at me for being sick. You know, my grandfather passed away from cancer and he was sick for a couple of years and nobody was mean to him. And he had all kinds of problems, as you can imagine two years in hospice is a very, very long time. Lisa: Well, but he probably did. Gabe: I don’t know that he ever. Nobody expected him to apologize for being sick. Lisa: I know, but I bet he said thank you. Gabe: I don’t know if he did or not, but nobody expected him to. The man was dying of cancer. Lisa: So you’re telling me that if you’re dying of cancer and someone comes in and takes care of you, you weren’t gonna say, hey, thank you? Gabe: I have no idea. Lisa: Thank you for doing this for me. Thank you for showing me this care, this consideration, this love. Thank you. Gabe: I have no idea. Because the overwhelming thought of lying in bed dying might overcome my sense of I should be thankful. I don’t know. I have never had to hold that on my chest. I have never had to consider my own mortality in this way. And maybe considering that I am going to die and leave my family will make me forget please and thank you. Because maybe it’s just not so important anymore. I don’t know. I hope not. Some people get terminally ill and they’re still making jokes. They’re still making YouTube videos. I consider those people to be just amazing and incredibly inspirational. And some people get terminally ill and they just they cry every day. And I’m not going to say that one person’s right and one person’s wrong, because once again, you don’t have panic attacks when you see things that are traumatizing to you. You get angry. I don’t get angry. I have panic attacks. Do you want to sit here and debate which one of us is right and which one of us is wrong? Because I think that would be just one, a waste of time and two, kind of a jerk move. We can’t control our feelings. Lisa: I am trying to say that for all of you out there who are having panic attacks, I know that you feel that you don’t need to apologize or maybe you feel like you have, hey, I’m sick. Leave me alone. Hey, I’ve earned the right to be a little self-centered here. But it would be nice and it will make your life easier. Try to apologize. Try to look at it from the other person’s point of view. Try to respect that they’re going through a lot, too. And it wouldn’t hurt to say you’re sorry or to try to be extra nice about it. That’s all I’m saying. Gabe: Lisa, I. I love giving you shit. Lisa: That’s a life tip there. Gabe: But as you know, I agree with 100 percent of what you just said. Lisa: Oh, it’s like that thing you always say that it may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility. Gabe: I was literally just getting ready to say that. Lisa: You’re welcome. Gabe: I love the part where you’re like, hey, Gabe, it’s the thing you were always going to say. I’m sitting right here. At least we have learned from each other. You know, you’re right, Lisa, because I, you know, I got lucky even though I never apologized. I never tried to make amends, et cetera. You did stick around. And I appreciate that. But, you know, a lot of my other friends did not. It took a long time to get back in good graces with, you know, some of my family members that, you know, I was that family member that everybody’s like. He’s coming? All right. Well, we’ll only stay for a half an hour. I put the people around me through a lot. And what fixed those relationships is me apologizing. And you’re right, Lisa. I do say all the time, just because it is not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility. But I also say and I think this is really the crux of it, I’ve never once apologized for being mentally ill. I’ve never once apologized for having a panic attack or being depressed or having to go to the hospital. I have apologized for ruining the play. I have apologized for ruining the concert or ruining the evening, or I have paid back people who have spent money and then had to drive me home because the thing got canceled. I have thanked people for taking care of me when I was sick. Gabe: I don’t expect people to run around and say, hi, my name is Gabe. I apologize for having bipolar disorder. But I do expect people to say hi, my name is Gabe. I’m really sorry that I got sick and ruined your evening. I know that you were looking forward to seeing Hamilton and you spent a lot of money on that. Please let me reimburse you for the ticket. And I’m just so incredibly sorry I ruined the evening by getting sick. That’s a very reasonable thing to say. I did ruin the evening. Listen, I got a million of these analogies. If you accidentally bang into somebody’s car, you have to fix their bumper. If you have a seizure and bang into somebody’s car, still have to fix the bumper. I think we get hung up on that a lot. That really is my the more you know moment. You want to keep the people in your life around? Appreciate them and try to see things from their perspective. And I hope this lets the people in our lives stick around more. And I hope everybody with panic disorder and anxiety can find a buddy. I hope everybody with depression can find a buddy. You know, I hope everybody can find a buddy. You know, Lisa, like we did. I mean, not like exactly like we did. Like, I don’t I don’t want them to be, like, codependent and really screwed up. Lisa: Aww. Gabe: But I hope everybody finds a BFF. But don’t start podcasts. That’s, we don’t need the competition. That’s our thing. Lisa: That’s true, but this isn’t about panic attacks. This is just more of a golden rule type thing. Be polite. If someone has done something nice for you, say thank you. If you’ve messed with somebody else, even if you didn’t mean to apologize. It goes a long way. Gabe: Are you trying to turn our show into, like a touchy feely, huggy huggy, hippie dippy kind of sunshiny thing? I mean, that’s a. Lisa: Yeah, well, that’s something I’m known for is my sunshine. Gabe: It’s the golden rule. Lisa: People tell me that all the time. Gabe: Do unto others. Lisa: So much sunshine. Gabe: As you would have them do unto you. I feel bad at how often we joke about some of the podcasts that are out there that really are just teaching basic, you know, follow your bliss, be your best self. It’s not bad advice, but no, we’re just we’re snarkier, apparently. Lisa: It’s not my thing. Gabe: It’s not my thing? Lisa: I don’t know. I’ve just never been into that. Apparently, it’s really working for some people and it’s certainly working for the people who make the podcasts. But I yeah, I don’t get it. Gabe: Hey, this is why we are the mental health podcast for people who hate mental Lisa: Mental health podcasts. Gabe: Health podcasts. Lisa: Good one. Gabe: Listen up, everybody. Here’s what we need you to do. If you loved the show, please subscribe. Wherever you downloaded it, rate, rank and review. We would love that. Use your words. You can e-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com with any topic ideas that you have. And finally share us all over social media. And once again, words matter. Tell people why they should listen. We will see everybody next week. Lisa: We’ll see you then. Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy Podcast from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. Want to see Gabe and me in person? Not Crazy travels well. Have us record an episode live at your next event. E-mail show@psychcentral.com for details. View the full article
  11. Long after most people have returned to work, even with social distancing, wearing masks, taking extreme care to wash hands rigorously and often, avoiding crowds, and limiting time in small confined spaces, there’s still the home environment to contend with. According to some experts, it’s more likely people can contract COVID-19 at home than outdoors and in some places long suspect, such as grocery stores. Without minimizing the importance of home cleanliness, excessive home cleaning for COVID-19 can trigger anxiety. These steps can help. Make cleaning a ritual, yet don’t spend hours doing it. Rituals and daily regimens are often helpful for those prone to anxiety or who find comfort using them to cope with stress. As long as the ritual doesn’t veer into the obsessive category, cleaning on a daily basis, or when it’s necessary, such as wiping down surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and other frequently used areas of the home, the action can tamp down anxious thoughts. Instead, the act of cleaning can serve as reassurance that you’re doing the right thing to help your family stay safe and healthy, that it’s effective, and it’s something you can control. This is perhaps especially important during a time when there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. We don’t know, for example, when there’ll be a safe and effective vaccine or when therapeutics and medicines to treat the condition will be widely available. So, being able to exert personal control over when, where, and how you clean the home is a positive reinforcement for your mental health. Wash clothing worn in high-traffic establishments outside the home upon return. Since the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious, and people exposed to someone who’s positive for it, even if they’re asymptomatic, and cough or sneeze, it’s possible to return home with the germ still active on clothing. The remedy for this is to remove the clothing and wash it immediately at home. Use the hottest water setting appropriate for the garments, and add color-safe bleach if it’s not damaging to the material to do so. This will effectively kill the germs and prevent them from lingering on the clothing and infecting others in the household through secondary transmission of the virus. Isolate any family members testing positive for COVID-19, even if they’re asymptomatic. The worrying aspect of having a family member who may be positive for COVID-19, yet doesn’t show symptoms, is undeniable. If testing is available and shows positivity for the virus, it’s important for that individual to self-isolate in an area of the house away from the rest of the family. A study from Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases found that the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater than an open-air environment.” Others in the family should also self-quarantine in the home for a period of 14 days as a precaution. If the positive (or symptomatic) family member shows improvement and has no fever, cough, or other serious symptoms for two weeks, the self-isolation and self-quarantine can likely be lifted. Check with your medical provider and follow the professional’s recommendations. As for the rest of the family during the quarantine period, continue thorough hand washing and other COVID-19 precautions even while remaining in place. In fact, it’s more important than ever to do so. This will help ratchet down the tendency for COVID-19 to trigger an anxiety attack or keep you up at night with a stream of anxious thoughts. A survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group found that 55 percent of Americans said the coronavirus pandemic has already affected their mental health, either a great deal or somewhat, whereas only 19 percent responded that it hasn’t affected their mental health at all. Interestingly, among women and those under age 50 say their mental health has already been affected, 62 and 60 percent, respectively. Use common household ingredients to clean and sanitize the home. Instead of being triggered with anxiety over the lack of cleaning and sanitizing products at home and if it’s not possible to get to the store to buy the usual cleaning and sanitizing products, or if the store is out of them entirely and you don’t want to go to multiple stores looking for them, use a handy substitute. Soap and water works well for this purpose. In fact, numerous experts on how to clean and sanitize surfaces (and hands, for that matter) recommend using soap and water and scrubbing vigorously. Ammonia and bleach or other disinfectants you may have in the home are good to use on countertops and floors, although they should never be combined. It’s also best to use them after first wiping down with hot soap and water. Then, let the disinfectant remain on the surface for 20 seconds before wiping off. Minimize news consumption about COVID-19 to lessen likelihood of triggering anxiety. While it can be hard to escape the constant news barrage about all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health experts strongly recommend limiting news consumption about the virus to lessen the likelihood the reports will trigger anxiety. This may be difficult when everyone is staying in place at home and watching TV and consuming social media or perusing the Internet for entertainment and distraction. Indeed, a survey conducted in Nepal during quarantine lockdown for COVID-19 found that prevalence rates of depression, anxiety and depression-anxiety were 34.0 percent, 31.0 percent, and 23.2 percent, respectively. Among those who lived alone, females, health professionals, and people spending more time accessing COVID-19 information were significantly more likely to have comorbid depression, anxiety, and depression-anxiety than the general population. So, while you’re busy cleaning and sanitizing the home as a precaution against COVID-19 transmission, keep entertainment light and steer clear of non-stop news reports and coverage of the pandemic. Your anxiety levels will benefit from such a prudent decision. View the full article
  12. I’ve been up in the middle of the night a lot lately. It’s given me the opportunity to work with my own anxiety and reflect on some of the things that can be most helpful at a time like this, with so many people struggling in personal and collective ways during this pandemic. I’ve been reflecting on the research about what we know about managing stress and coping with adversity. I’ve observed my own, and others’ ways of coping and what seems to be most helpful. Here are five coping strategies I would put on the top of my list. 1. Stay Connected — in real time and in your mind. Social connection and social support are foundational to our well-being. When we connect with others there is often a natural calming of the nervous system that we experience. Both feeling cared for, and caring about others, can help to release chemicals into our body which are soothing and calming. Thankfully our technology can be of help in keeping us connected during this pandemic. Ask yourself — who might you connect with today? When you are not able to connect with someone in the moment, know that even just calling up memories of caring moments in your mind, can be a helpful strategy for cultivating positive emotions and calming in the body. Try this: When I wake up feeling anxious in the middle of the night, I have found it helpful to imagine myself surrounded by the people in my life who love and care about me, and whom I love and care about. Call to mind a person you care about. Picture their face, their voice, a loving word or gesture they might offer you. Imagine being in their presence, as if you could feel their care and support right now. Let those feelings of care sink in and soothe any parts of you that might feel anxious. 2. Come back to your senses. Our five senses help to anchor us in the here and now. When we are anxious, we are often residing in the uncertain future. When we can bring ourselves back to the present moment and engage our senses directly, this can often help to calm the mind and body. For example, doing walking meditation and focusing on the sensations of the feet as they hit the ground can be — well, grounding. Pausing and listening to sounds around us can direct our minds to being here in this moment. Activities that engage the senses, for example, exercising, drawing or painting, cooking, listening to music, knitting, gardening, doing a puzzle, to name a few, can be helpful for many people during times of heightened anxiety. Even if the present moment is difficult, we can work with what is here. It is when our minds reside in the uncertain future, trying to solve problems that can’t be solved, that we experience even greater unease. Try this: Make a list of what engage your senses and brings you into the present moment. Think about things that might take more time (such as an aromatic bath) as well as things that you could do on the fly (putting your hand on your heart and taking three breaths). Use this list often when you find yourself feeling anxious. 3. Identify what is within your sphere of influence and put your energy there. Anxiety naturally mobilizes the body’s fight or flight response and increases activation of our sympathetic nervous system. This, in combination with the tendency of our mind to ruminate on things we can’t control, can leave us in a state of overwhelm or helplessness. We feel over-aroused and we have nervous energy. It can be helpful to identify where and how we can channel that energy into something active that we have some personal agency over, and that we care about. Be clear and intentional about what you can do today that you can influence, that feels nourishing or helpful for you. Try this: Identify things within your sphere of influence including: daily ways you can take care of yourself (from making your bed to going for a walk to preparing a healthy meal or listening to an inspirational podcast); how you might make a small but positive difference in someone’s life today; what you can tend to — your family, a garden, a project; what specific actions steps can you take today that might be positive for your health, your family, your house, your community or your future? 4. Shift from threat to challenge wherever possible. No question, the current circumstances we are facing are posing very real threats for so many people. But, when anxiety strikes, check in and ask yourself if there is an imminent danger right here in this very moment. For many people, the sense of threat and danger lies in the “what if” brain, not the “what is here right now” brain. Name the challenges that are actually here right now, and then make a list of resources that you have to meet these challenges. These resources could be both inner ones (e.g., courage, patience, ability to think outside the box to find creative solutions, commitment to what you care about, perseverance, self-compassion) and outer resources — the circles of supports you have within your family and friends, your community, the healthcare system, and other outside organizations and structures (e.g., workplace, religious communities, supportive agencies, mental health professionals). Try this: Think about a time in the past when you faced adversity and ask yourself what most helped you get through that? What insights did you gain about your ability to handle challenges, what strengths did you draw upon at that time, that might help you now as you face new challenges? 5. Connect to your deepest values. Identify what values are most important to you during this time. Who do you most want to be in the face of fear and uncertainty? How can you show up today in a way that might reflect those values? You don’t have to get rid of fear or anxiety, but as you turn up the volume on what you care most about, what is most important to you, this can help dial down the intensity on the anxiety. For instance, I have found that when I spend time on meaningful endeavors (such as writing this blog), my anxiety doesn’t tend to take front and center stage. Try this: In a recent interview psychologist Dr. Robert Brooks shared a question he often asks people to reflect on: what words would you hope people would use to describe you by (during this pandemic or otherwise), and what might you intentionally do or say today to help make that so? View the full article
  13.  When was the last time you simply enjoyed being in nature? Whether it’s a camping trip to the mountains, a walk in the park or just watching the squirrels from your backyard, being in nature is profoundly healing. In today’s Psych Central Podcast, our guest Richard Louv, a journalist, author and co-founder of the nonprofit Children & Nature Network, discusses the science behind nature’s healing powers. What counts as “nature?” Are pets included? What are some modern barriers to accessing nature, and how can we overcome them? Join us for the answers to these questions and more. SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW Guest information for ‘Richard Louv- Nature’ Podcast Episode Richard Louv is a journalist and author of ten books. Louv is co-founder and chair emeritus of the nonprofit Children & Nature Network, which supports a new nature movement through partnerships with such organizations as the National League of Cities. In 2008, he was awarded the Audubon Medal, presented by the National Audubon Society. Prior recipients have included Rachel Carson, E. O. Wilson, Sir David Attenborough and President Jimmy Carter. 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 ‘Richard Louv- Nature’ 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 to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have author Richard Louv. Richard is the co-founder and chair emeritus of the nonprofit Children & Nature Network, which supports a new nature movement through partnerships with such organizations as the National League of Cities. Back in 2008, he was awarded the Audubon Medal, presented by the National Audubon Society. Richard, welcome to the show. Richard Louv: Thank you. Gabe Howard: Richard, it’s great to have you. A lot has been talked about the connection between mental health and nature, mental health and animals, and I kind of want to start off in this place. I’m a big fan of social media. Love it or hate it, it’s probably here to stay. And one of the things that I often see on social media is this meme that says the best antidepressant is a walk in nature. And I know that you don’t feel that nature replaces medical science, but you do feel that a walk in nature has real, real support and real help for people who are suffering from depression. Can you talk about that for a moment? Richard Louv: And that’s new, when I wrote Last Child in the Woods, it was published in 2005, this was ignored. The impact of the natural world on human well-being, on health, on cognitive functioning, all of that, it would have been basically ignored. And I could find maybe 60 studies. Many of them were about the growing disconnect between children and therefore adults, too, and nature and some of it. Some of those studies dealt with the benefits and some of those studies dealt with mental health and physical health. That is a drop in the bucket compared to how much money is spent researching just about everything else. And it struck me that something so large as the impact of the natural world experience on human health and well-being had been ignored. How could that be? And as I looked into it, I was working with some neuroscientists then. They were studying brain architecture development in young children. And they were looking at all kinds of things and how that affected brain architecture development. Everything from parent child attachment to bad day care to dangerous neighborhoods and all of that. And those things they were finding literally shapes the brain in early childhood. And I asked them once. Have you ever thought about how the natural world helped shape the brain in young children? Experiences? Actual contact with the natural world? And they looked at me with a blank face and they said, what’s nature? Richard Louv: And I understand that science has a difficult time defining nature. But, you know, I said to the neuroscientists, this isn’t rocket science. And it isn’t brain surgery. You come up with a hypothesis and test it. One hundred and twenty trees per acre or whatever. They still had trouble with it. So I decided that was one of the reasons why this was so understudied. Is the blind spot in science about nature. The rest of nature of which we are apart. The second reason was, where does the research money come from? What pill can you manufacture? What thing can you commercialize out of that? Now there are some things, I mean parks and outdoor hiking organizations, things like that. There are some. But for the most part, people don’t think about it. Certainly funders don’t think about this as something they can get something out of by funding. That’s changing. Today, if you go to the Children & Nature Network, which you mentioned in your introduction, we have a research library there that we’ve built. And it is for anybody in the world. It Is free. And there are now probably, it’s just tipped over 1000 studies that we have abstracts for and links to the original studies when they’re available. So it’s gone from about 60 to over a thousand in about 14 years after not existing before. Gabe Howard: I think that it’s interesting that one of the things you said, and this really plays to the pessimist in me is we don’t want to tell people to go for walks because there’s no funding for it and you can’t make money prescribing it. You know, we can’t prescribe one walk a day or, you know, hug your dog every day. That that’s not something that you can fill at the pharmacy. And this is kind of counterbalanced against the, you know, medication is important. Look at the advances that we’ve made with cancer by coming up with, you know, better treatments, etc. But I would even argue that taking somebody who is suffering from cancer and completely isolating them, you know, taking away their friends, their support systems, their animals, and even a window would put them in more of a bad way than they already are. And I think that’s what you’re saying. And you’ve talked about in your work how animal assisted therapy is becoming one of the biggest health care trends. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But you also talk about the controversy surrounding it and then you back it up with science. Can you talk about animal assisted therapy for a moment? Because I just find it absolutely fascinating that people wouldn’t respond to this favorably. But I also understand that this is our culture. Everything is good and everything is bad, seemingly at the same time. Richard Louv: I think it’s more nuanced than that. I think that most people understand that their dog helps them. You know, most people get it at a visceral level. And in terms of organized animal assisted therapy, whether it’s dogs or equine therapy with horses or going outside and connecting with wild animals, no matter what that is. People viscerally understand that. It’s the science is coming now and the science is really interesting. Some of it is controversial, but nobody that has watched a kid with disabilities in an equine therapy or horse therapy, horse assisted therapy setting cannot be not moved. It’s very moving to watch this. One person who works in this field told me that a mother was bringing her child, who is autistic, to the animal assisted therapy sessions, which involved horses. And he would ride horses with a helmet and somebody would lead the horse. And he was, I think, about nine years old and he had not talked ever. And one day when they didn’t go when they were supposed to to the horse therapy, her son walked into the living room and said the word horse, first time she had heard him say a word. So there are moving stories like that. I talk about a woman, another woman who is on the autism spectrum, and she tells quite a moving story about not only how her service dog, whose name is Kobo, helped her, but how she has learned to help Kobo using some of the same techniques that Kobo uses to help her. So often what is occurring is a kind of mutualism is a you know, it’s not one way. I don’t want it to be seen as just what we get out of our relationship with other animals. I promote something in the book called The Reciprocity Principle, which basically holds that for every bit of healing that they give us, that animals, whether they’re domestic or wild animals, give us, we need to give back to them the same. We need to protect them as they protect us. Gabe Howard: And do you feel that reciprocity is what gives people that boost in mental health? Because you’re not just getting, you know, whether it’s love, companionship from the animal, but you are now responsible for the animals. That gives you a sense of purpose. What the science behind that? Or the, well, what are your thoughts on that? Richard Louv: Well, I think that’s a really interesting way to put it. I think you’re right. I think, again, it’s not one way. We know a lot. There’s quite a bit of science about animal assisted therapy when it involves domesticated animals where dogs and horses and even goats and other animals. There’s not much known, there’s very little research about what we gain and what we could give regarding wild animals. And I’m sitting here and looking out the window and there’s a deer path goes through my yard. And I can tell you my endorsement spike every time I see deer go by. And as I walk in this neighborhood, we just moved here about a year ago. The deer are responding to me differently. They don’t run away as they stand and watch. And during those moments, it is absolutely impossible to feel alone in the world. One of the issues I deal with in Our Wild Calling is the epidemic of human loneliness. Medical folks, as you know, have been talking about this for about two or three years. They’ve been saying that loneliness, human isolation is about to overtake obesity as a cause of early death, not just because of suicide and that affects that, but because of all the diseases that are associated with loneliness. Richard Louv: I make the case that, yes, Facebook is part of the problem. Anti-social media is part of problem, that urban design is part of the problem and all of that. But I think that that epidemic of human loneliness is rooted in an even deeper loneliness, which is species loneliness. We are desperate to not feel alone in the world. One of the studies that I find most interesting is of urban parks. And they find that, the study found that, the urban parks that have the best benefit for human psychological health happened to be the urban parks with the highest biodiversity, the highest number of wild animals and plants. Again, I don’t think that’s an accident. We are desperate not to feel alone in the world. And the irony is we are not alone in the world. There is a conversation going on all around us. I call that the intimacy that exists all around us. All we have to do is pay attention. Gabe Howard: I’m 43 years old, and when I was younger, there were parks and recreation centers all over the place. I could walk to one. And as somebody who suffers from bipolar disorder, I was a very depressed child. I was untreated and my family didn’t know. But I did have these parks. Now, I was an overweight child. And I don’t want to convince anybody that I went on a lot of nature walks. But I did go on some and I was aware that they were there and I did have a place to go. And, you know, this is my childhood in the 80s and now here we are and in 2020. And I don’t have a single recreation center within walking distance from my house. And I live in a neighborhood with children, which means the children in my neighborhood don’t have this. This is a trend that, of course, was created to save money. And because we decided that people didn’t want them. And also, I suppose because we wanted people to pay to join gyms or clubs or golf courses, I guess how do we pull this back? Because, again, even though I didn’t use the parks and recreation centers as much as I could of, I did use them a little bit. And now children don’t have this benefit. Many children don’t have this benefit. What say you to that? Richard Louv: Well, I talk about cities. I talk about the idea that cities can become engines of biodiversity. They don’t have to be the enemy of nature. And in fact, more and more wild animals are moving into cities, whether we like it or not. And so there’s an opportunity there. This has a lot to do with urban design, with biophilic design. And there’s a lot going on that is of notice is of, is good. There are more and more cities that are creating wildlife corridors through the city so that animals can pass through. And we can have the connection with them. There are more and more urban gardens. There are more and more native plant gardens. People are turning in their backyards into native plants, which of course is what nurtures the food chain because of insects. And then they can bring back bird migration routes. They can bring back bees. They can bring butterfly migration routes. So there’s a lot going on out there people really aren’t aware of. Now, you’re right, the trend has been against. I mean, even in schools, the trend has been toward either dropping or reducing recess in elementary school or some elementary schools are now being built with no playgrounds, let alone a natural playground. On the other hand, there’s a real trend among many schools to create natural play spaces. Gabe Howard: We’re going to step away and we’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors. 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 interplay between nature and mental health with author Richard Louv. Richard Louv: You mentioned bipolar. I want to tell you, I’ll try to keep it short, a story about that. My father, my family and I tell this story in The Nature Principle. Our best times when I was growing up were in nature. They were spent fishing or in the backyard, in the garden or in the woods behind our house where I walked with my father and followed rabbit tracks and all that. That garden was particularly important. I remember following him as he would rototiller the back yard and then I would run around and I would pick up bones and other things and rocks out of the ground. He was happy there and over time we moved to a more affluent neighborhood. He got a better job. We didn’t need to garden anymore, supposedly. And he seldom went outdoors. He was a devoted fisherman. His dream was to retire early and move to Lake of the Ozarks or one of the lakes in the Ozarks. They finally did that, to Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri and got a little house and he finally got his dream. But by then, it was too late. He seldom left the kitchen table. He was probably bipolar and he was an alcoholic on top of that. Richard Louv: Which produces some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. It was not a pleasant time, from the time I was about eleven on in terms of my dad, I tell that story in The Nature Principle to confess that I have a bias. I have a bias that nature experience is connected to health, to mental health, to physical health. Because of that early experience now, I don’t cherry pick the studies that I cite and almost all of them point the same direction. But I do admit that I have a bias. He did not have a happy ending. And I wonder sometimes what would have happened. And I asked this question, what would have happened if not only psychiatry in the late 50s, early 60s, had included children in the family, included the rest of the family? They did not. And what would have happened if nature therapy had been popularized by then? Could that have helped him? I asked some eco psychologists that question. They say, of course, they can’t tell. They don’t know. But what they, what one said is that we know for certain it would have made life better for you and your mother and your brother. Gabe Howard: I really like that story and I like what you say there, because there are moments where people are happy and sometimes we don’t give those moments enough do. We don’t pay enough attention to those moments, whether it’s working in the guard and going for a walk, reading a book, making dinner, whether we find happiness in in a mundane task or not. And I know that Richard Louv: Right. Gabe Howard: Especially in America, we really look down on manual labor. As you said, he got a better job. So he didn’t need to have a garden. He didn’t need to work in a garden, even though it was something that made him happy. Do you think that there’s just a bias against gardening or working in nature where people feel that they’re too successful to do it, as you suggested in your story? Is this going on in in droves around America where people just don’t want to do it? Because after all, that’s beneath them or whatever words you want to use, because the average family does not have a garden anymore. Richard Louv: Well, I don’t think that there’s a bias specifically toward gardening. There’s not a bias specifically toward hiking or anything else that people do outdoors. What has happened is these barriers to that experience have risen. And one of them is affluence. One of them, my father, got a better job. It demanded longer hours. It imbalanced his life and ours. So I don’t think it’s really a bias against that. You’re right about manual labor, but not about those experiences that connect us to the natural world. In fact, there’s quite a resurgence in gardening. And as I mentioned, in native plants in our yards and focusing on that more, that’s part of the good news. There is a lot of good news out there, even though the trends may not look like they’re going in the right way. There’s good news in terms of urban design, biophilic design. There’s good news in terms of an awareness now that nature has something to do with our health, our mental health and our physical health, those experiences. I can tell you that did not exist very much in 2005, not among the general population. Richard Louv: There was a study done a few years ago called The Nature of Americans that reproduced research that was done about 20 years ago, and they compared how people felt about different aspects of nature. What they found was that families that people, particularly parents. That their awareness that nature experience is connected to health had skyrocketed since 2005. What has not happened is the barriers have not gone down. They’re still there. Now, there are people working very hard to reduce those barriers, particularly for kids, but for all of us. And they’re working on that all over the world. I think China and Brazil that have launched programs to connect kids to nature and therefore their whole families. You mentioned the National League of Cities. We’re working with that organization, which represents 18,000 mayors and other municipal officials to try to help cities become better places to connect families to nature. Schools. There are now nature preschools have taken off is a phenomenon. They’re sometimes called forest schools. There’s an increase of about 500 percent of those just in the last few years. So there’s a lot of good stuff happening. Gabe Howard: Richard, thank you so much for being on the show. Do you have any last words for people who want to get out in nature more? But as you mentioned, the barriers are just too much. How can they overcome them? Richard Louv: Well, one is to be careful how you define nature. It doesn’t have to be Yosemite. It can be in an urban neighborhood. You know, there was a program a few years ago that the Sierra Club had. What they do is go into urban neighborhoods. They put backpacks on kids and go for a five mile walk in their neighborhood and they would look for nature. They’d always find it. Sometimes in the cracks between the sidewalks, sometimes in the alleyways. If you change your perspective of what nature is, you’ll find it. The second thing is conservation is no longer enough. Now we have to have to create nature to maintain or bring back the kind of biodiversity we need. In the act of creating urban gardens, in the act of planting trees in cities, children and their parents reconnect to nature and they feel really a lot better about themselves, about where they live. All of that. But finally, I would say, you know, in addition to seeking out information on how to do that, because it doesn’t come naturally to the new generation of parents, or at least many of them, because many, most of them did not have much experience when they were kids in nature as I did. So, it doesn’t necessarily come that naturally. And they don’t even know where to start sometimes when they want that. Richard Louv: But it’s possible, particularly if you band together with other families. People are starting Family Nature clubs. Family Nature Club in San Diego now has about, I believe about 3,000 families as members of it. And that’s a pool of families you can dip into and find out if somebody wants to go take a hike, multiple families next Saturday. That deals with the fear of strangers. That deals with the sense that we don’t know how to do this, but other parents do. So there’s all kinds of ways to do it. But it has to be a conscious act. We put sports on the calendar. We should put nature there, too. And finally, and this is the primary lesson, I think, of Our Wild Calling, is to recognize that there is intimacy all around us. There is connection all around us. But to find that, to hear that conversation, you have to pay attention. And that’s why, you know, as we’re talking, a row of wild turkeys just walked by my house. And I pay attention to that. I think about what they’re doing. I think about what they’re feeling. Empathy is the greatest way, I think, to take us out of ourselves. Gabe Howard: Richard, I love that. Thank you so much for being here. Where can folks find you on the Internet? Richard Louv: Well, I have a Web site, RichardLouv.com. And that’s L O U V is the last name, but also the Children & Nature Network, which is ChildrenAndNature.org. And of course, Amazon, you can find me there, obviously. Gabe Howard: Thank you, Richard, for being here and thank you to our listeners for tuning in. Wherever you downloaded this podcast, please rate, rank and subscribe. We would really appreciate that. Share us on social media and use your words in the description and tell folks why you like the show and why you listen. Finally, 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. 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
  14. I am a runner. Even with a regular running routine and being in pretty good shape, there are many times during my runs where I start to feel like I am not going to make it. I start to panic a little bit, and I can feel the flood of negative thoughts threatening to overtake me. I know then that I have reached some kind of threshold for this exercise. But I don’t just quit. I look for ways to alleviate the stress I am feeling and look for a new way to move forward. I have found that this little questionnaire always reveals a way forward not only in running, but when I feel like I am losing it in life, too. Next time you are feeling like you’ve reached a threshold, you’re panicking or feeling overwhelmed, or you simply feel like you’re about to lose it completely, try going through this list of questions and making adjustments as necessary. It may just be the thing that helps you get through to the other side. 1. Are you looking up? In other words, where is your focus? One of the hardest things I had to learn about running was to look up. My tendency was to look down, where my feet were landing, to make sure I didn’t make a misstep. Sound familiar? How often do we scrutinize our steps in life so closely, that we don’t even realize we have taken our eyes off the goal ahead of us, and now we are stuck in the rocky terrain we are in? Looking up and looking ahead literally pulls you forward toward your goal. It also creates a more open posture, which leads us to the next checkpoint. 2. Are your shoulders open? Posture is everything. In running, better posture literally opens your body up to receive more oxygen and carry your muscles efficiently through the strenuous movements. In life, posture does the same thing. It opens you up, it ensures you’re getting adequate oxygen, and it expands our hearts to new possibilities. There is a high level of correspondence between our emotions and our body language. It is really difficult to send your body joyful signals if you are always curled into a ball. Yet, proper posture is uncomfortable for most of us, we naturally revert to a more comfortable slump. So we have to be constantly reminded to make the conscious effort to stretch and open ourselves up. 3. Are you expelling what isn’t needed? In any aerobic exercise, expelling hydrogen and carbon dioxide are just as important as your oxygen intake. Build up of these elements causes improper function and pain. Likewise, the tensions we hold in our bodies can slow us down and obstruct our view. In everyday life, these might be regrets, grief, or shame that you have been holding onto. It might be toxic influences in your life, people or media that is simply counterproductive to your goals. It might even be something that hasn’t happened yet, little forecasts of anxiety that cause you to feel unnecessary dread or stress. Whatever it is, take a big, deep breath and let it go. 4. Are you using all your muscles? Or in the case of everyday life, are you using all your resources? Running form is a whole science that when done correctly, coordinates all the muscles of the body for maximum achievement. Sometimes, I forget to lengthen my stride or tighten my core, but when I check in with this question, I am afforded a major boost in speed or strength, because I have called on a new resource for my body to use while running. It is so easy for use to forget what resources we have at hand. We are creatures of habit and become accustomed to using the same solutions over and over in problem solving. But often, there is a new, creative solution right in front of us, if we can take a step back, look at what we have, and give ourselves a true picture of all the resources available to us. 5. Do you need to slow down? Lastly, you may be doing all of these things and more, but still struggling. Sometimes, all you can do to alleviate the stress is slow your pace. Or in some cases, maybe this is a signal you have overcommitted and as a result, you are buckling under the pressure. If so, slowing down might look like scaling back. What things can you reprioritize so that you don’t feel so stretched thin? Slowing down or scaling back doesn’t mean you have to stop completely, it doesn’t mean you quit. But reprioritizing or taking some time to recover is always an option and when done strategically, it can be just the change in gears you needed to find a new way to move forward. View the full article
  15. Someone gave it a name: Quarantine Fatigue. It’s not a diagnosis, but it surely does label what many people are feeling now that we’re 7 – 8 weeks in with stay at home guidelines/orders. People are by nature social creatures. We desire connection. We thrive on relationships. We need to be with other humans to be human. There are even studies that show that people would rather experience physical pain than loneliness. Quarantine Fatigue speaks to our difficulty maintaining the limits on up front and personal, 3-dimensional contact with our fellow human beings. The result for many people is irritability, restlessness, general crankiness, and even physical exhaustion. It mimics depression in many ways and could be misunderstood as the onset of a mental health disorder, rather than a normal response to an abnormal situation. Some people are responding to their anxieties with anger and defiance. They want the stay at home orders lifted! They swarm beaches and parks. They refuse to wear a mask. They claim that their protests are about the restraints on individual freedom, putting a political cover on a decidedly non-political issue. The issue, really, is not about rights. The issue is the extent to which we believe we are our “brother’s (and sister’s, neighbor’s, family’s, and friends’) keeper.” According to Alfred Adler, early 20th psychologist who was both a colleague and an irritant to Freud, the measure of mental health is Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Roughly translated, it means “social interest” or feeling of community with others. By his measure, those who refuse to wear masks, who insist on congregating, who refuse to take steps to keep others safe, are at risk for mental illness. Those who are most concerned about others and who actively work to make their community healthy and happy are the most mentally healthy. The COVID-19 epidemic is challenging our Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Staying focused on the greater good instead of just relieving our own discomfort is hard, really hard. Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo speaks eloquently of this regularly in his daily updates. Being home is not about you as an individual. It’s about protecting everyone else. That means being inconvenienced. It means changing our daily routines. It means wearing masks and keeping our distance. It means finding other ways to stay connected with our community besides being in each other’s physical company. Quarantine fatigue is real. But the solution isn’t defiance of social distancing. Participating in angry demonstrations demanding the right to infect others may give those who do it the high of an adrenaline boost, but it ultimately is self-destructive. Contributing to the spread of the disease and the deaths of others will only result in regret and survival guilt or hollow self-justification. Self-esteem based on negativity and fear leads to depression and more anxiety. In contrast, doing things that help keep everyone safe broadens and builds positive self-esteem. How to Manage Quarantine Fatigue There is no cure as yet for COVID-19. But there is a “cure” for Quarantine Fatigue. What Alfred Adler called Gemeinschaftsgefühl is a personal commitment to Social Responsibility. Being socially responsible means staying informed and connected in ways that contribute to the greater good. Affirm or shift your thinking from “Me” to “We.” Survival as a people, as a community, and as a country requires giving up the idea that freedom is doing what we want when we want. Survival calls for Gemeinschaftsgefühl: For us to be our best selves, looking after the other guy as well as ourselves. Those who thrive, not just survive; those who live longer and feel more fulfilled, do exactly that. Resist the pull of conspiracy theories: Those who make mockumentaries and manipulate our fears and restlessness by posting conspiracy theories on social media thrive on creating a “us vs. them” mentality. They pray on our financial fears and anxieties about the future. Often, they are invested in pursuing a political or social agenda, regardless of how many people will die because of it. Recognize them for what they are and refuse to fall for their manipulations. Stay informed: Listen to the real experts who have been quietly working on infectious disease control for years. Science and facts help us make the decisions needed to ensure that fewer people will suffer and die. Stay home: If your circumstances allow you to stay home, get comfortable with being uncomfortable (maybe very uncomfortable) until the numbers are more promising. There are other articles here at Psych Central and on other sites that offer ideas for being socially connected while maintaining physical distance. Practice safety: Wearing a mask or gloves may be uncomfortable. Keeping your distance when talking to others may be awkward. Washing your hands 20 times a day may be inconvenient. But all these measures are for everyone’s good. If you can’t do them for yourself, do them for the people you love. If everyone obeys these simple strategies, the disease has less opportunity to spread. Don’t isolate. Communicate: Time on your hands means you aren’t using enough of your time to be in community with others. Make at least one call to a friend or loved one a day. Send letters and emails. Participate in online social groups like book clubs or interest groups. You will benefit and so will the people you talk to. Help those who are financially suffering the most: Donate what you can to service organizations like food banks and survival centers. Send people whose services you used to use regularly a thank you check. Tip food delivery people generously. If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot. Volunteer: Multiple studies show that people who do good for others are happier and live longer. Use your creativity and imagination to find ways to be of use during this difficult time. Get busy. Make masks for others. Join a call circle for elderly and disabled people who need to know someone cares. Volunteer to tutor or read to kids you know so their parents can get a break. Join online committees to further the agenda of organizations that are trying to preserve and expand the social safety net. The crisis created by COVID-19 brings out the best and the worst in people. The antidote to despair and the way to stay mentally healthy and enhance self-esteem is to tap into the best in ourselves. Alfred Adler was right. Ultimately, it is by each of us acting for the good of the many in whatever ways we can that will get us through. View the full article