When Your Anxiety Doesn’t Have a Trigger

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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It’s very common for Kristin Bianchi’s clients to tell her that they’re feeling anxious, but they’re not sure why. They say they recently haven’t experienced anything particularly stressful or anxiety provoking, so it doesn’t make much sense.

Consequently, “they frequently become worried about the meaning behind these seemingly random feelings of anxiety,” said Bianchi, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in treating OCD, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and depression at the Center for Anxiety & Behavioral Change in Rockville, M.d.

In other words, she noted, “they become worried about worrying, or frightened of fear.”

When many of Regine Galanti’s clients initially start working with her, they, too, describe their anxiety as just happening. Galanti is a licensed psychologist and director of Long Island Behavioral Psychology, where she specializes in using evidence-based treatments for anxiety and related disorders in children, teens, and adults.

Many of us believe our anxiety comes out of the blue. It just feels so random and sudden—startling us like the siren of a smoke alarm, or a squirrel jumping out of the bushes.

But this is rarely the case. Rather, we simply don’t notice our triggers. What we do notice is our anxiety, because it tends to be blaringly, glaringly loud. “When we feel something strongly, we often zero in on it and discount all the information leading up to and surrounding it,” Galanti said.

And the information that leads up to your blaringly, glaringly loud anxiety might be a thought, feeling, or behavior. Galanti noted that anxiety, and really all emotions, consist of those three parts. For instance, you might feel horribly anxious the morning after going to sleep past midnight, she said. You might become anxious as you notice your heart beating faster, she said.

Bianchi noted that it’s very common not to recognize that our thoughts are a significant trigger. “Thinking happens so quickly and automatically that we often don’t realize that we’re having stressful dialogues or creating catastrophic narratives in our own heads.”

For instance, she said, you might not even realize that you’re revisiting a recent conversation that caused you some stress. Maybe you’re replaying how your coworker was gossiping about your boss, which made you very uncomfortable. Maybe earlier this morning you and your spouse fought over your monthly budget (or lack thereof). Maybe your mind drifted to the sarcastic remarks your date was making (and how annoying they were).

The catastrophic narratives your head is spinning might include: “wondering whether or not you turned off certain household appliances, then imagining your house burning down if you forgot to do so; worrying that something bad will happen to a loved one, then imagining your reaction if that type of personal tragedy were to occur; creating ‘worst-case scenarios’ involving academic, career, or financial ruin when thinking about a recent disappointment or setback in any of those domains,” according to Bianchi.

Panic attacks also are a prime example. They seem sudden, but there are usually specific triggers, Galanti said. It might be a thought, “I can’t easily escape this situation,” or a physical sensation, such as your heart rate speeding up, she said.

And then there’s our digital culture. “We reflexively hop from tab to tab, app to app, and website to website, generally giving very little thought to the process,” Bianchi said. But while we might not notice that we’re doing all this hopping and scrolling, we’re still responding emotionally to what we’re consuming, she said.

That means that we are responding emotionally to sensationalist news headlines, flawless Instagram images, and emails from colleagues and clients, all of which can trigger anxiety. However, we’re too hyper-focused on these stimuli to notice what’s brewing inside our bodies.

“Even low-level anxiety reflects that we’re experiencing a fight-or-fight response,” Bianchi said. “When we finally notice it, it can come as a surprise to us, as we hadn’t been paying attention to it up until that point.”

So what can you do? What are your options when your anxiety seems to arise out of the blue?

Below, you’ll find a few tips on identifying your triggers—even the subtle ones—and reducing anxiety when it starts. It’s especially helpful to practice the relaxation strategies when you’re not anxious. This way you’re familiar with them, and maybe even created a habit.

  • Act like a scientist. Galanti tells clients that the goal is to help them treat their anxiety like a scientist: to “take an outsider perspective on their insides.” To do this, she suggested readers use a journal or the notes section on your phone to record your anxiety. That is, whenever you feel anxiety coming on, she said, ask yourself, “What just happened?” “literally, what happened immediately before and then try and pinpoint [your] thoughts, physical feelings, and what [you] do.” Maybe you downed a huge cup of coffee. Maybe you thought about your to-do list. Maybe your thoughts shifted to your child’s first big presentation. Maybe you read an email from your boss. Maybe you said yes to an invitation (that you really, really didn’t want to accept). Maybe you started sweating because it’s so hot. Tracking what triggers your anxiety helps you to spot patterns, and “those patterns can help people come up with solutions,” Galanti added.
  • Slow down your breathing. Bianchi suggested “breathing in slowly through your nose to a count of 4 to 6 seconds, holding your in-breath for 1 to 2 seconds, then slowly breathing out through your mouth to a count of 4 to 6 seconds.” When you’re breathing out, it helps to “imagine that you’re blowing fuzz off a dandelion or blowing a stream of bubbles,” she said.
  • Practice this grounding technique. According to Bianchi, find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. “This shifts our focus away from the anxiety and helps us to reconnect to the present moment using our five senses.”
  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This involves scanning your body for muscle tension, and then “unclenching” tight muscles to release that tension, Bianchi said. “When doing this, it’s important to remember to relax your jaw, open your mouth slightly, and make sure that your tongue is positioned at the bottom of your mouth (versus flexed against the roof of your mouth).” You also can use an app that offers a guided practice, such as Headspace; Stop, Breathe, and Think; and Pacifica, Bianchi said.
  • Face your fears. Avoidance only amplifies and strengthens our anxiety. Facing your fears, a skill known as “exposure” in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is incredibly effective in reducing anxiety. Galanti suggested devising a list of small steps to help you face your triggers. For instance, she said, if caffeine triggers your anxiety, you might “start drinking a little bit of coffee a day, and see what happens. Even if you do feel anxious, maybe you can handle it better than you think you can.” Another option is to work with a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety with CBT or other successful treatments. Bianchi suggested starting your search at a professional organization, such as https://adaa.org, and http://www.abct.org.

Anxiety can sometimes feel like it has zero rhyme or reason, which can be exceptionally frustrating. It can feel like you’re going about your business, and BAM! an object falls from the sky and smacks you on your head.

But when you delve deeper, you realize that there’s a thought, feeling, or behavior that sparked that bam! And that’s valuable information. Because now you can focus on the root of the issue and try to resolve it, whether that’s a conflict with a loved one, difficulty saying no, the fear of fear, not enough sleep, or something else altogether.

When Your Anxiety Doesn’t Have a Trigger

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Small Things I Do Every Day to Manage My Depression

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Some days you feel well, and other days, darkness envelopes you. You feel achingly sad, or you feel absolutely nothing. You’re exhausted, and every task feels too big to start. You feel weighed down, as though there are sandbags attached to your shoulders.

Managing the symptoms of depression can be hard. But even the smallest steps taken every day (or on most days) can make a significant difference.

Below, you’ll learn how five different women live with depression on a daily basis, and the small, yet pivotal actions they take.

Having a daily routine. “Having a daily routine helps me push through the days when I’m not feeling my best,” said Denita Stevens, a writer and author of the recently released poetry collection Invisible Veils, which delves into her experiences with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Stevens’s routine starts at night with two morning alarms: one alarm is optional, the second one, which rings around 7 a.m., is not. “I take a moment to gauge how I’m feeling before deciding which one I wake up to.  Sometimes I don’t always have a good night’s sleep and an extra hour of rest helps.”

When she’s up, she drinks coffee and reads. Then she focuses on work. The evenings are dedicated to personal time. This “gives me motivation to accomplish what I need to do during the workday in a timely manner and allows me to end the day investing my time in myself,” Stevens said. This me-time might mean socializing, exercising, relaxing, or working on a writing project—right now she’s working on a memoir about what it was like to live with undiagnosed PTSD and how she recovered.

On weekends, Stevens doesn’t have a schedule. “A balance between scheduled and unscheduled time every week seems to work best for me,” she said.

Setting boundaries. “Setting boundaries is extremely important to my mental and emotional well-being,” said T-Kea Blackman, a mental health advocate who hosts a weekly podcast called Fireflies Unite With Kea.

For instance, Blackman has set her phone to go into “Do Not Disturb” mode every night at 9 p.m., because she wakes up at 4:45 a.m. to exercise. “Working out has been beneficial as it helps to improve my mood and I sleep much better.” Going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time helps her get consistent rest. “When I am not well rested, I am unable to function throughout the day.”

Exercising. “I make myself exercise even if I don’t feel like it,” said Mary Cregan, author of the memoir The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery. “If my mind is troubling me, I’ll try using my body instead.”

If Cregan’s energy is really low, she goes for a walk. And these walks have a powerful benefit: She gets to see other people—“little kids in playgrounds, old people walking with their shopping bags, teenage girls all dressed alike. People can be interesting or amusing, and help me get out of my own head.”

Cregan, who lives in New York City, also likes to walk along the Hudson or around the reservoir in Central Park, and admire the water. She likes to look at the plants and trees, too. “If the sun is out, I’ll sit on a bench with the sun on my face.”

Tidying up. Cregan also regularly makes her bed and cleans up the kitchen. This way, she said, “things don’t feel messy or ugly, because that would be depressing in itself.” Sometimes, she buys flowers for her home, since looking at them cheers her up.

Having downtime. Blackman prioritizes downtime to help her unplug and recharge. Sometimes, this looks like listening to water sounds—waves crashing onto the shore, water hitting the rocks—and putting on her essential oil diffuser as she listens to a podcast or reads a book. Other times, it looks like lying in bed and letting her mind wander, as she listens to the water sounds and breathes in the essential oils.

Wearing comfortable clothes. Fiona Thomas, author of the book Depression in a Digital Age: The Highs and Lows of Perfectionism, regularly tunes into her inner dialogue. When she notices the chatter is negative—“you’re so lazy”—she decides to actively challenge the voice and be kind to herself instead.

“One small way that I’m kind to myself every day is by wearing clothes that I feel comfortable in as opposed to what I think people expect me to wear. If I want to wear leggings and a baggy jumper to the supermarket, then I do it.”

Creating small moments of self-care. Another way that Thomas is kind to herself is by going out for coffee, or taking several minutes to stand by a canal and watch the ducks go by.

Practicing self-compassion. In addition to depression, Leah Beth Carrier, a mental health advocate working on her master’s in public health, also has obsessive-compulsive disorder and PTSD. When her brain tells her that she isn’t worthy, doesn’t deserve to take up space, and won’t ever amount to anything, she gives herself grace. “This grace I give myself allows me to be able to hear these old tapes, acknowledge that they are fear based and my fear has a purpose, and then continue to go about my day.”

Taking a shower. “I try my hardest to take a shower every day even though I find this really difficult with depression,” Thomas said. “Even if [showering is the] last thing [I do] at night, I know it helps me feel healthier in the long run.”

Looking in the mirror. “I have also found that the simple act of looking at myself in the mirror, eye to eye, each morning and making a point to say hello to myself—as silly as it sounds—keeps me grounded,” Carrier said. “It is also a little reminder that my existence here on earth is allowed and OK, maybe even something to be celebrated.”

Of course, the specific small actions you take will depend on the severity of your depression, and how you’re feeling that day. The above actions are examples that speak to the power of small. Of course, it’s also vital to get treatment, which might include working with a therapist and/or taking medication.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the pain isn’t permanent, even though it absolutely feels permanent in the moment. You won’t feel this way forever. “Having lived with depression since I was a teenager, I’ve discovered that even at my lowest points, I can still survive and it will get better,” Stevens said. “It always gets better. May not seem like it at the moment, but those feelings are only temporary.”

“I never believed it when people told me it would get better when I was in my darkest days and attempted suicide, but I remained committed to my recovery…,” Blackman said. She’s made various changes, and has seen a huge improvement in her mental health.

Don’t discount the power of small daily acts and steps. After all, before you know it, those small steps have helped you walk several miles—a lot more than had you been standing still. And if you do stand still on some days, remember that this is OK, too. Try to treat yourself gently on those days, to sit down, and extend yourself some compassion.

Small Things I Do Every Day to Manage My Depression

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What I Want Someone Who’s Overwhelmed with Their Mood Disorder to Know

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You have depression, or bipolar disorder. And on some days, you feel like you’re treading water—at best. You’re tired of struggling. You’re tired of regularly feeling tired. You’re angry that your to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer. You’re angry that you have to deal with so much darkness day in and day out.

Some days are just hard. Some days you feel so overwhelmed.

It is on these days that you probably feel like the only person on the planet who’s struggling with persistent symptoms.

Thankfully, you’re not. And thankfully, it will get better.

We asked individuals who live with depression or bipolar disorder to share what they’d like others who are feeling overwhelmed with these same conditions to know. Most of the individuals are speakers from This Is My Brave, a fantastic nonprofit organization that hosts live events and aims to “end the stigma surrounding mental illness through storytelling.”

Get treatment. T-Kea Blackman, a mental health advocate and speaker who lives with depression and anxiety, stressed the importance of seeing a therapist who can help you identify triggers, learn healthy coping tools, and set boundaries, along with a psychiatrist if you need to take medication. (For bipolar disorder, both medication and therapy are vital.)

Blackman emphasized not getting discouraged if the first or third medication you try doesn’t work, or the first or third therapist you see isn’t a good fit. “It can take time to find the right dosage and medication, and therapist for you.” This can be frustrating, but it’s common—and you will find the right help.

Focus on small victories. Sivaquoi Laughlin, a writer, blogger, and mental health advocate with bipolar II disorder, has good days, bad days, and sometimes great days. She underscored the importance of realizing that it’s OK not to be OK, and acknowledging small victories, which are actually “huge.”

Some days, those small victories might be getting out of bed and taking a shower, she said. Other days, they might be excelling at work and going to dinner with friends. Either way, it’s all important and worthwhile.

Forgive yourself. Fiona Thomas, a writer who has depression and anxiety, stressed the importance of not beating yourself up when you don’t do everything on your list, or when you have bad days. One of her friends always says: “Remember that your best changes when you’re not feeling well.”

Thomas, author of the book Depression in a Digital Age: The Highs and Lows of Perfectionism, suggested not comparing today’s output to your output from last year or last week. “It all depends on how you’re feeling mentally, and if you’re not 100 percent, then just do what you can—the rest will come later.”

Thomas also suggested doing one small thing every day that makes you feel better. This might be anything from drinking a few glasses of water to walking around the block to talking to a friend, she said. “There are so many ways to boost your mood little by little, and over time, they become habits and make you feel better without even really having to try.”

Do one enjoyable thing every day. Similarly, Laughlin encouraged readers to find one thing that brings you happiness, and try to incorporate that into your daily routine.

For Laughlin, it’s many “one things.” That is, she loves being with her grandson and her dogs, meditating, hiking, reading, and writing. “Start small and build upon it. Forgive yourself if you miss a day or days.”

Remember you are not broken. Suzanne Garverich is a public health advocate who is passionate about fighting mental health stigma through her work on suicide prevention as well as telling her story of living with bipolar II disorder. She wants readers to know that you “are not damaged, but [instead] so courageous and strong to live through and fight through this illness.”

Document your OK days. This way, “when you are having an off day or month or series of months, you can go back and remind yourself that you have felt differently,” said Leah Beth Carrier, a mental health advocate working on her master’s in public health, who has depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. “You are capable of experiencing emotions other than the numb, black hole you reside in at the moment. There is hope.”

Surround yourself with support. “Surround yourself with people who can support you and find an online community who can relate to you, such as the Buddy Project or my community, Fireflies Unite,” Blackman said. She also noted that the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers free support groups.

Other online supports include: Psych Central’s forums, and Project Hope & Beyond and Group Beyond Blue–both of which were started by one of our associate editors, Therese Borchard.

Teresa Boardman, who has treatment-resistant bipolar disorder, attends weekly therapy sessions, but sometimes, she said, she needs more. “It’s OK to talk frankly with someone. I like to use the crisis text line because I do not have to break my cone of silence. Expressing yourself truly makes you feel less alone.”

Living with a mental illness can be hard. Acknowledge this. Acknowledge your overwhelmed, exasperated, angry feelings. Remind yourself that you’re not alone. And remind yourself that you are doing an incredible job, even on the days it doesn’t feel like it.

What I Want Someone Who’s Overwhelmed with Their Mood Disorder to Know

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Small Things I Do Every Day to Manage My Bipolar Disorder

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Living with bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming. Maybe you’re tired of the ups and downs of different episodes—the soaring energy, the debilitating fatigue, the racing I-need-to-do-everything-and-I-need-to-do-it-now thoughts, and the dark, decelerated, bleak thoughts.

Maybe you’re exhausted from struggling with an especially stubborn and deep depression, which makes it tough to concentrate on anything, and feels like you’re walking through a river of waist-high molasses in a fog.

Managing bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming, too. What can make it much easier is getting effective treatment. Bipolar disorder is highly treatable—but a lot of people with the illness don’t get professional help.

Author Charita Cole Brown pointed out that “Of the estimated 5.7 million Americans living with the disorder, over 50 percent won’t seek treatment.” She wrote the memoir Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life “to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness in general and bipolar disorder in particular. People need to understand how important it is to seek appropriate treatment.”

“My recovery is no anomaly,” Brown said. “By sharing my story, I want people to understand that mental illness is physical illness, therefore we must seek treatment as we would for diabetes or a broken arm.”

In addition to seeking treatment, there are small things you can do every day. Below, alumni from This Is My Brave share the small and significant ways they manage their bipolar disorder. This Is My Brave is an international nonprofit organization that hosts live events and publishes essays on their website written by people who are living with mental illness and living well.

Checking in. Amy Gamble is a speaker, executive director of NAMI Greater Wheeling, and a former Olympian. Every day and throughout the day, Gamble checks in with how she’s doing: “’Are my thoughts racing a little or do I just have a lot of creativity going right now?’ If I find I’m a little charged up or anxious, maybe even hypomanic, I take extra precautions not to make a lot of decisions.”

Gamble monitors her behavior, too. “I think about what is typical for me when I’m balanced. I am a very deep thinker and don’t typically make impulsive decisions. If I start acting on impulse, I reel myself back in. I don’t always notice a change in my behavior right away, but I monitor with hypervigilance.”

Suzanne Garverich also carves out time to pause and do a “self-inventory.” “I assess quickly how I am doing emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually,” said Garverich, a public health advocate who is passionate about fighting mental health stigma through her work on suicide prevention as well as telling her story. This helps her identify her needs—“before I go too far down the rabbit hole”—and meet them.

For instance, if Garverich determines that she’s feeling emotionally low and having dark thoughts, she figures out what she needs to do to “help me not go deeper into the dark thinking and depressive feelings.” She might call a friend or take a 10 to 15-minute walk. “It could be as simple as walking to the water fountain and drinking some water—just moving a muscle to change a thought. It could also be that I need to do some redirection of my thinking using my CBT and DBT skills…”

Having an effective bedtime routine. “The major thing I do is to make sure I get 8 hours of sleep a night,” Garverich said. “This really helps in keeping me balanced—sleep has a huge effect on my bipolar.”

To help herself get restful sleep, Garverich maintains a routine. Two to 3 hours before her bedtime, she stops doing anything work-related. She usually watches 30 minutes to an hour of TV. Then about an hour before her bedtime, she takes her nighttime medication, and gets into bed to read. Some nights she also takes a shower or bath.

“I also spend time before I go to bed breathing on my back and reviewing my day—seeing what I have done well, what I would like to improve, and if there is anything I need to share with anyone.”

She sets her alarm for the same time every morning. After she wakes up, she meditates in bed for 30 minutes. (More on meditation below.)

Practicing mindfulness and meditation. Gamble, also author of the book Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor: An Olympian’s Journey with Mental Illness, practices meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness. “Staying in the present moment keeps me from getting down about how my illness has limited me.” (She also reminds herself that “everyone has something they are dealing with.”)

Every day Gamble listens to a playlist of her favorite meditation songs. “I put on my headphones and attempt to quiet my thoughts. I focus on slowing my mind down and paying attention to my breathing.”

Garverich also finds it helpful to practice deep breathing throughout the day, especially if she’s overwhelmed. For instance, at work, she usually takes a break and goes to the bathroom to take deep, slow breaths.

Connecting with others. “For me what is really important to achieve daily, to manage my illness and nourish my well-being, is feeling connected and not alone in my thoughts,” said Susie Burklew, who shared her story at the 2018 This Is My Brave show in Arlington, and co-produced the fall 2018 show. Eight years ago, for the first time, Burklew told her therapist that she thought she had a problem with alcohol. Her therapist suggested Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

“I went to my first meeting that evening and I haven’t had a drink since. For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t alone. I connected and was inspired by people who had been through the same struggles and were living a happy life in recovery. I formed a strong network of people in AA and became comfortable opening up about my addiction to alcohol.”

For the past 6 years, Burklew has worked as a behavior specialist and counselor at a government residential rehab that specializes in co-occurring disorders.

Today, reaching out to someone on a regular basis—such as someone from her recovery network—helps her to stay in the moment, instead of getting “caught up in the stress of something that’s happened in the past or the fear of what’s ahead.”

Garverich connects with at least one person in her support system every single day. She might talk to this person over the phone, or they might simply text. Either way, this helps her know she’s not alone—something her illness wants her to feel, she said.

Sivaquoi Laughlin, a writer, blogger, and mental health advocate with bipolar II disorder, makes sure she spends time with her grandson and her dogs every day. “The energy from both provide me with a level of joy that I’m constantly yearning for.”

At the end of the day, Laughlin also sits down with her “16-year-old daughter and [we] discuss our day and name something good/great that happened. Even if it’s been a hard day or we haven’t had time to really connect, I make sure she knows that every day has a highlight.”

Engaging in art projects. “I undertake artistic projects daily. I am no good at it, but I can feel like I can breathe,” said Teresa Boardman, who has treatment-resistant bipolar I disorder with PTSD, OCD, suicidal ideation, and hypersomnia. Her latest project is a birdbath. “It is quite discombobulated that I decided to go with a steampunk theme. Now it is beautiful because I changed how I see it.”

Reducing the to-do list. Every morning, Laughlin lets her dogs out, and immediately makes a cup of tea. Next, she looks at the day ahead and jots down three things she’d like to accomplish. “They could be simple, such as returning a library book or dropping off dry-cleaning to bigger projects like organizing my closet or mowing the lawn. I’ve found that by committing to only three things, it keeps me from being overwhelmed and being triggered by ‘voices’ telling me I can’t do something.”

Boardman makes notes on her bathroom mirror of things she needs to do. For instance, she might list her exercise routine (e.g., 20 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of yoga), and that she needs to take her morning medication and her evening medication. Boardman noted that she tries to work with her illness and its varying moods. After having over 20 electroconvulsive treatments (ECT), she realized she needed to take a different approach and embrace her illness.

It’s understandable that living with bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming and frustrating. But remember that there are 5.7 million Americans struggling alongside you. Remember that this illness, though difficult, is also highly treatable.

“Don’t give up hope,” Gamble said. “Things will get better, and you can learn how to manage the symptoms. They might not go away completely, but you can learn how it affects you. You can learn how to beat bipolar disorder.”

Small Things I Do Every Day to Manage My Bipolar Disorder

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Podcast: Self-Care for Your Mental Health

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Self-care is important for everyone, but our hosts feel it is extra important for people managing mental illnesses and other mental health issues. It stands to reason that, if you don’t take care of yourself, then the symptoms of an illness will have an easier time making our lives miserable.

In this episode, our hosts discuss what self-care is, what self-care isn’t, and what they personally do to care for themselves. Listen now!

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“Would it be self-care for me to watch a bunch of guys getting hit in the privates?’”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Self-Care for Your Mental Health’ Episode

[2:00] What do Gabe and Michelle do for self-care?

[6:30] Why did Gabe and Michelle start a podcast?

[11:30] Why does Michelle watch “fail” videos?

[13:30] Gabe loves fidget spinners and believes they help with his self-care.

[17:00] Watching Jeopardy is an example of self-care.

[19:00] Michelle + Gabe + The Peoples’ Court = group self-care.

[22:00] Who thinks watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the BEST self-care?

[23:00] Is personal hygiene an example of self-care?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Mental Health Self-Care’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: [00:00:06] For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: [00:00:17] You’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. My name is Gabe Howard. I live with bipolar disorder.

Michelle: [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Michelle. I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:00:27] And today we are going to discuss self care. But like low end self care, like easy self care, basic self care, the self care that nobody thinks about because everybody’s always thinking about like these grandiose self care ideas.

Michelle: [00:00:42] Well like going to a spa and getting a facial?

Gabe: [00:00:45] That would be one. Or going on vacation, or being able to stay home for a week. Quitting their jobs.

Michelle: [00:00:51] I mean yeah quitting your job. What else is As grandiose self care?

Gabe: [00:00:57] I think the biggest grandiose self care is like marrying a rich person and just eating bonbons while watching TV all day.

Michelle: [00:01:04] Wait there’s something wrong with that?

Gabe: [00:01:05] There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just the kind of self care that most of us can’t participate in.

Michelle: [00:01:10] I mean that seems kind of like a pretty good self care.

Gabe: [00:01:13] I think that is an excellent self care and we’re gonna do a companion episode called self care for the rich and famous and that will be on there.

Michelle: [00:01:20] If you’re a sugar daddy looking for a sugar baby and you’re not a total creep, email me.

Gabe: [00:01:24] Really? The creep thing, do you care? That’s kind of creepy behavior on your part. You’re literally looking for somebody to take care of you.

Michelle: [00:01:31] Okay fine I’ll change that. If you just are a really rich person and you want to give me a lot of money for no reason, hit me up.

Gabe: [00:01:36] Michelle, you and I both live with severe and persistent mental illness and we’ve managed to live successfully for a number of years. And we always talk on this show that there’s more than just medication. There’s more than just therapy. There’s more than just peer support or group therapy or having stable housing or having good friends and family and one of the things that we almost never talk about, and an alert reader pointed out, is we never talk about basic self care tips. And I’m really surprised because between us we have like so many. And I love it when we get together and our little self care ideas don’t quite mesh. A big one of mine is going to get Diet Coke and just chilling.

Michelle: [00:02:13] At seven thirty in the morning.

Gabe: [00:02:16] That’s why it doesn’t quite mesh. And one of your self care tips is going to get coffee but like closer to eleven and it’s very difficult to find a place that has Diet Coke and coffee that you find acceptable.

Michelle: [00:02:30] Like McDonalds?

Gabe: [00:02:30] I mean McDonalds. That was a good compromise on our part. But remember when you tried to take me to Starbucks?

Michelle: [00:02:37] Yeah, and you refused to go to Starbucks. You think you’re better than Starbucks.

Gabe: [00:02:41] I don’t like coffee.

Michelle: [00:02:43] Why not?

Gabe: [00:02:43] Why don’t you like Diet Coke?

Michelle: [00:02:45] I do like Diet Coke but I don’t want it. I’d rather have coffee in the morning than Diet Coke.

Gabe: [00:02:51] You see the problem and this is why you shouldn’t have mentally ill friends ladies and gentlemen. We did an episode a few weeks ago where we talked about vices and Diet Coke was brought up as a vice because I drink so much of it and we’re not walking that back. But this is the flip side of that where it relaxes me. It helps me. It is a part of my self care especially when I get very stressed out at work or when I get overwhelmed on a project. I can step out, drive someplace, sit down, sip a Diet Coke, people watch, look around, and that really allows me to calm down. This is a self care option that cost me a couple of bucks and I know that you feel the same way about coffee.

Michelle: [00:03:31] Yes, coffee is readily available walking through New York City. Oh I want some coffee? I’ll be at a coffee shop in at least three minutes.

Gabe: [00:03:38] You once described that if you wanted coffee in New York, you just have to hold out your hand and say coffee and it just magically appears.

Michelle: [00:03:44] It’s ridiculous how much coffee you can get in New York City. Maybe that’s why everybody’s so amped up all the time? People just go go go go go. Maybe that’s what it is. That’s why everybody is just so fast and everything in New York City? Is it just the readily available list of coffee everywhere?

Gabe: [00:04:01] And espresso.

Michelle: [00:04:01] And espresso, is everywhere in New York.

Gabe: [00:04:04] Do you have people that call it ex-press-so? Where they don’t pronounce the s? They call it X-presso, instead of S-presso?

Michelle: [00:04:10] I thought it was X-presso for so long.

Gabe: [00:04:12] You pronounce the X? That doesn’t exist?

Michelle: [00:04:13] I didn’t know why. I didn’t know. I had to be educated, Gabe. I needed to be educated about coffee.

Gabe: [00:04:20] As longtime listeners of the show know, I also host the Psych Central Show with Vincent M. Wales and Vince is a master coffee person. Like he has all the equipment in his home. He knows everything about coffee; he knows everything about the beans. He has so much coffee knowledge and he tries to impart this on me all the time and I just give him this glazed over look like can I go now?

Michelle: [00:04:42] You never told me this about him. So I don’t know why me and Vin are not better friends now.

Gabe: [00:04:47] Oh, Vin loves coffee.

Michelle: [00:04:50] All the sudden I like Vince so much more than I ever did.

Gabe: [00:04:53] Well there’s another thing that I should tell you about Vin. He loves New York style pizza. It’s the only pizza that he will eat.

Michelle: [00:05:00] Why did you never tell me this about Vin?

Gabe: [00:05:04] I’m telling you now.

Michelle: [00:05:04] Ack!

Gabe: [00:05:05] Don’t assume that all the people around you are like old and god awful. Maybe ask them some questions? Maybe find some common ground?

Michelle: [00:05:14] All I know is that he likes comics.

Gabe: [00:05:16] Well I mean he does like comics. That’s true.

Michelle: [00:05:18] And I have nothing in common with Vin because I don’t like comics. But now that I know I have all this stuff in common with Vin, maybe maybe Vin and me can be BFFs?

Gabe: [00:05:23] I always thought you and Vin were BFFs.

Michelle: [00:05:27] No, you didn’t.

Gabe: [00:05:28] I know. Listen everybody, Michelle and Vin don’t have a rift. They get along just fine but they have a lot in common and they don’t realize it because you know Vin is well into his 50s and Michelle acts 12. It’s a big big gap. You know Vin lives in California, Michelle is from New York. We’ve got the whole male female thing going.

Michelle: [00:05:48] It’s going to be a long distance relationship.

Gabe: [00:05:49] It’s going to be a long distance?

Michelle: [00:05:50] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:05:50] Vin is very like muted. Like he’s nothing like me. He’s just very like, Yes, thank you.

Michelle: [00:05:55] Yes, hello, yes. My name is Vincent M. Wales.

Gabe: [00:05:59] He’s a novelist. He spends a lot of time alone with his words. I spend a lot of time alone with my words but I’m not writing them.

Michelle: [00:06:05] You’re just talking them.

Gabe: [00:06:06] I’m just talking. You know how you said early on that one of your coping mechanisms, not self care but coping mechanisms, was you put earbuds in? And that way when you walk down the street, people were like, “Oh, she’s not talking to herself she’s singing along to music. Or maybe she’s on a Bluetooth? Maybe she’s on the phone, etc?” It doesn’t look weird because you have the earbuds in.

Michelle: [00:06:25] Yes right.

Gabe: [00:06:27] I became a podcaster because originally when I was sitting upstairs just talking to myself, my wife thought it was weird. Now I’m like oh podcasting. She thinks I podcast 14 hours a day.

Michelle: [00:06:37] I know. I know my friends in college thought I was on the phone. Sometimes I’d be on the phone, but often they’d be like, “Who are you talking to?” And so I was, “I wasn’t.” I would try to say I was on the phone more times than I actually was, honestly.

Gabe: [00:06:51] One of your self care techniques was to educate the people that you lived with. I don’t think you’ve ever lived alone, have you? You’ve always either lived at home, lived in the dorms, or lived with a roommate?

Michelle: [00:07:01] Yes.

Gabe: [00:07:02] So you’ve had to do that. Part of your self care regimen is educating the people that you live with so that they give you the least amount of flack or shit or trouble as possible, right?

Michelle: [00:07:14] Yeah pretty much yeah. It’s never really been a big deal with anyone I lived with like outside of college. Since moving into Queens and Astoria and living in the apartment I live in now. The only thing that bothers anyone is that I don’t clean enough.

Gabe: [00:07:25] But that’s not schizophrenia.

Michelle: [00:07:26] No, that’s not schizophrenia. But like you know, being as schizophrenic, you always learn like they’re not the cleanliness of all the people blah blah blah.

Gabe: [00:07:35] We’re gonna get letters for that. Wait, did you just say people with schizophrenia aren’t clean?

Michelle: [00:07:38] We just watched that video that was like, “Schizophrenic people might not be dressed the best.” Or whatever that stupid video said. Like, okay, sure we don’t dress great. But what kind of ridiculous freakin’ fact was that?

Gabe: [00:07:49] You know it’s messed up. I know personally two people who live with schizophrenia. I have lots of, you know, co-workers and colleagues and fellow mental health advocates but two people who live with schizophrenia that I consider like like buddies. One of them is Michelle Hammer.

Michelle: [00:08:03] Mmm-hmm.

Gabe: [00:08:03] The great Michelle Hammer.

Michelle: [00:08:04] The great.

Gabe: [00:08:07] And the other one is Rachel Star. Rachel Star is like the best dressed person we know.

Michelle: [00:08:11] I know. And she knows how to walk in heels.

Gabe: [00:08:13] Yeah. She teaches it. She actually had a fashion blog for a while where she taught people how to be a girl and like how to walk in high heels, how to wear the belt, how to do the makeup. She’s like well put together and she has schizophrenia. So I’m starting to think that maybe these videos where they say things like, “people with schizophrenia don’t dress well, and they dress weird, and they act weird, and they’re they’re not clean, and they’re not organized, and they walk funny.”.

Michelle: [00:08:34] And they walk with an awkward gaunt.

Gabe: [00:08:38] Yeah I think maybe.

Michelle: [00:08:38] What is gaunt? The awkward gaunt?

Gabe: [00:08:40] I don’t know what any of that is either but this leads us into our next form of self care. Don’t watch that shit.

Michelle: [00:08:47] True.

Gabe: [00:08:51] So many people, they’re just constantly Googling stereotypes and offensive things on the Internet so that they can be mad at it.

Michelle: [00:08:58] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:08:59] Why?

Michelle: [00:08:59] It’s almost like they want to educate themselves as much as possible but then they find these online articles that really just are stereotypical and are wrong and they just start thinking bad things.

Gabe: [00:09:12] It pisses you off.

Michelle: [00:09:13] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:09:15] If you seek out things to be angry at, you’re gonna find it.

Michelle: [00:09:18] Yes.

Gabe: [00:09:20] But here’s the magical thing though. If you seek out things to provide you with joy on the Internet you will also find those.

Michelle: [00:09:26] What do you find for joy on the Internet? Porn?

Gabe: [00:09:28] Listen I’m not going to lie and tell people that I’ve never looked at pornography on the Internet today. Because that would just be a lie.

Michelle: [00:09:37] And nobody would believe you.

Gabe: [00:09:39] And nobody would believe me. But there are really cool things on the Internet that I do enjoy reading. One of the things that I’ve done and I think that this is vital to self care is I use a news curator. That eliminates a lot of news that I just don’t want to hear about, or sources that I consider to be offensive or dramatic or don’t follow journalistic standards.

Michelle: [00:10:02] Personally like just don’t.

Gabe: [00:10:03] Your personal beliefs are really irrelevant. It’s the part where you’re constantly being bombarded with you’re wrong you’re stupid you’re wrong you’re stupid you’re wrong you’re stupid. You realize once you put a slant on news it’s no longer news.

Michelle: [00:10:14] It’s just bias.

Gabe: [00:10:15] It’s just gossip.

Michelle: [00:10:15] It’s biased news.

Gabe: [00:10:17] It’s opinion.

Michelle: [00:10:18] It’s why I like E News.

Gabe: [00:10:20] Yeah I like I like to read my news. I also don’t like like live news, and by live news like I don’t turn on like the 24 hour news station on the TV because it always ends up like this. Like we’re getting word that something is happening. We have no facts or information so we’re just going to make shit up.

Michelle: [00:10:36] I personally love watching car chases.

Gabe: [00:10:38] Yeah, car chases are kind of fun.

Michelle: [00:10:39] I like when they watch the car chase and then the car goes under a bridge or something like that and then they start watching the wrong car.

Gabe: [00:10:47] They follow for a minute and then the helicopter goes back left?

Michelle: [00:10:48] Yeah. They watch the car and like oh the car seems to be pulling into a gas station. Oh the guy in the car seems to be wearing a different color shirt. They don’t seem to be really in a rush. Oh I’m sorry guys. I think you’ve been following the wrong car now.

Gabe: [00:11:01] Oh the police all left.

Michelle: [00:11:02] It seems like we’ve, uh, we’ve lost the car. Those are hilarious.

Gabe: [00:11:06] To answer your original question of what are some things that I like to read on the Internet that are fun? There’s all kinds of uplifting things. The biggest one for our community that we like to push out is The Mighty. TheMighty.com. We do ask us anything on the first and third Monday, we do it live. You can see our pretty faces. Just go to mental health on TheMighty.com.

Michelle: [00:11:25] You can see my pretty face and Gabe’s ginger face.

Gabe: [00:11:28] One of my self care things is to limit the amount of time I spend with Michelle.

Michelle: [00:11:31] No, but going on what I was saying about watching car chases. I look up on YouTube like fails.

Gabe: [00:11:37] There you go.

Michelle: [00:11:39] And it is just hilarious. But of course if anyone actually got hurt in the fails they wouldn’t be in the fails compilation but it’s just so funny to me watching these people get hurt. It’s hilarious. Rope swing fails are hilarious. Like any kind of like snowboarding fails. Those are pretty funny. Or just ridiculous like just kids doing something stupid. But I know it’s not good to watch this one but it’s hilarious. Baby fails. Baby fails are the funniest fails ever. They just fall over; they trip over things. Or like the babies cover themselves in peanut butter. Hilarious. And of course, the granddaddy of all them is when guys just get hit in the balls.

Gabe: [00:12:19] Just get hit in the balls?

Michelle: [00:12:19] Just getting hit in the balls. I cannot physically know the pain of getting hit in the balls but it looks painful and it’s hilarious to watch them. Have you ever been hit in the balls, Gabe?

Gabe: [00:12:28] Yes.

Michelle: [00:12:29] Sorry. I’m sorry.

Gabe: [00:12:31] It’s amazing to me because on one hand I’m like oh man, would it be self care for me to watch a bunch of guys getting hit in the balls because I know that suffering and that it always makes me cringe. But on the other hand I’d laugh hysterically.

Michelle: [00:12:43] Laugh hysterically. Hysterically, hysterically. Let’s take a break and hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: [00:12:49] This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counselling. All 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 counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Michelle: [00:13:20] And we’re back talking about self care.

Gabe: [00:13:22] How do you feel about fidget spinners.

Michelle: [00:13:23] I like fridget spinners. Why not?

Gabe: [00:13:25] Have they helped you? They’re not new anymore. I mean they’re well over a year old and I think the fad has kind of gone as far as mainstream.

Michelle: [00:13:32] Oh they were all over Chinatown when I was popping up in near little Italy. They were everywhere. Every kid that came into the market had a fidget spinner a couple of years ago.

Gabe: [00:13:42] They were everywhere for ten dollars and then last year I went to the fair and they were a buck.

Michelle: [00:13:45] Five dollars. Chinatown five dollars. That’s how much they were.

Gabe: [00:13:47] Yeah, everywhere in Ohio ten bucks ten bucks ten bucks ten bucks and then at the fair this year a dollar.

Michelle: [00:13:51] Yeah, well whoever invented them they made a lot of money.

Gabe: [00:13:55] So the mainstream fad is over. I’ve kept mine. I still find it to be very very helpful. I keep a little, not a fidget spinner, but a little fidget toy in my pocket. And I still use what I consider like fidget spinners’ great great grandpa, like Koosh balls or squeezy balls. I find all of those things.

Michelle: [00:14:13] You how? You squeeze your balls?

Gabe: [00:14:14] No, I don’t squeeze my balls. I have a little foam ball that I can squeeze.

Michelle: [00:14:19] Oh, okay.

Gabe: [00:14:19] But it’s interesting that you’re over there thinking about my balls.

Michelle: [00:14:23] No I was just like you like squeezy balls. I mean you said squeezy balls, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:14:28] Stress balls.

Michelle: [00:14:29] You said you like squeezy balls.

Gabe: [00:14:30] Stess balls have been around for a long time.

Michelle: [00:14:31] You said you liked squeezy balls.

Gabe: [00:14:33] Do you ever think that we like bicker back and forth like siblings as part of our self care regimen? Is that like our thing? Because we laugh hysterically when we do it. So.

Michelle: [00:14:42] I guess we do.

Gabe: [00:14:43] So it’s clearly not an argument.

Michelle: [00:14:44] Talking about self care specifically, I always like to bring up the late great Whitney Houston who said learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Gabe: [00:14:59] But how is that a self care thing? I mean isn’t it like a high level concept? It’s kind of like telling somebody that is having financial problems to just make more money or if you’re distressed just love yourself.

Michelle: [00:15:08] Well she decided that to paraphrase I don’t know the exact words but Whitney Houston did say that she decided long ago not to wander in anyone’s shadow. You know what I’m saying?

Gabe: [00:15:19] Because that way if she succeeds it won’t be her destiny or something?

Michelle: [00:15:24] If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believe. Live as you believe, Gabe. Don’t wander in anyone’s shadow. Don’t be in anyone’s shadow. Be you. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do.

Gabe: [00:15:37] I think that that is excellent advice. You’ve also stumbled upon another thing that I think is amazing. Music.

Michelle: [00:15:42] Yes.

Gabe: [00:15:43] This music really speaks to you and I know that you have described when you’ve been depressed stressed worried or even a little manic, that you use music to like regulate your moods. You think that’s a common thing? I have that big like 12 speaker surround sound stereo in my car, bluetooth enabled and I use it to listen to our podcast. But whenever you’re here, we connect it, and we’re like doing carpool Karaoke and like screaming to music and people are staring at us.

Michelle: [00:16:08] Yeah like that time I made you play White Houses by Vanessa Carlton and I was singing my heart out.

Gabe: [00:16:14] You were and what I love is I don’t like it when people sing because it grates me. But I was able to turn up the music so loud I couldn’t hear you.

Michelle: [00:16:21] Listen, you don’t like my singing voice? I am a professional singer.

Gabe: [00:16:24] Who sang that song?

Michelle: [00:16:26] Vanessa Carlton.

Gabe: [00:16:27] Let’s keep it that way.

Michelle: [00:16:29] Yes yes yes. Everybody used to say that back in the day.

Gabe: [00:16:32] Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Knock knock.

Michelle: [00:16:35] Who’s there?

Gabe: [00:16:35] Interrupting cow. MOOOOOO!

Michelle: [00:16:38] Yeah. Everybody knows that one too, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:16:39] Wait, wait, wait. Why did the chicken cross the road?

Michelle: [00:16:41] To get the other side.

Gabe: [00:16:43] Oh you’ve heard this one.

Michelle: [00:16:44] Who killed Alicia Keys?

Gabe: [00:16:46] Who?

Michelle: [00:16:46] No one no one no one.

Gabe: [00:16:52] Alicia Keys is alive, right?

Michelle: [00:16:53] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:16:54] Okay.

Michelle: [00:16:54] That’s her song.

Gabe: [00:16:55] I didn’t know that.

Michelle: [00:16:55] Oh, okay, well.

Gabe: [00:16:57] Who’s Alicia Keys?

Michelle: [00:16:57] You know, she plays piano.

Gabe: [00:17:00] I think she’s a no one. No one no one.

Michelle: [00:17:02] OK. That’s not funny.

Gabe: [00:17:04] It’s a little funny.

Michelle: [00:17:05] Fine, whatever you want.

Gabe: [00:17:06] I think we like different music. We have found music that we both like and I would say that you know that’s another self care tip. Maybe be willing to compromise with your friends. I don’t like to listen to music in the car. It’s not something that I really do. But you and I have had to take several road trips as part of our job and you were like look I talk to you for money so I’m not going to talk to you for free. So I compromised and agreed to listen to music and we had a lot of fun doing it. It really was fun. But when you’re not around I don’t do it by myself. So I think that sometimes self care is being open to new ideas and maybe finding the joy in things that maybe you wouldn’t do alone. Another example of that is Jeopardy. I don’t watch Jeopardy when you’re not around.

Michelle: [00:17:46] I love Jeopardy. I love it. I just love to see more of the competition type aspect because when I watch it maybe I get like five questions right.

Gabe: [00:17:56] I get none.

Michelle: [00:17:57] No you get some.

Gabe: [00:17:58] Never.

Michelle: [00:17:59] I mean I wish I could be on Jeopardy but those people they just they have facts that I don’t even I didn’t even know where actual things. How do they know this stuff? They’re amazing. They’re amazing people.

Gabe: [00:18:11] You find that very interesting, right?

Michelle: [00:18:11] I do. That these people are so smart and I find it so interesting that they know these facts and like where did they learn these? Like, I went to high school, I went to college. I didn’t go to an Ivy League or anything like that, but how do they know these facts? And even there’s the teachers tournament and when I ever thought of a teacher I was like yeah your teacher teaches this subject. I was that you know they know this subject. No no no. You watch teachers tournament they know everything. Every. Thing. And then the college tournament, they know everything. But I do very well on the high school tournament. Those are those questions I do pretty good and then they had like the juniors. I was so good at the juniors. You have no idea. Those 12 year old kids, I’m on their level.

Gabe: [00:18:56] You know that show Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

Michelle: [00:18:59] I’m bad at that.

Gabe: [00:19:00] Well, I was not. I was not smarter than a fifth grader.

Michelle: [00:19:02] I was not Smarter Than A Fifth Grader either. Yeah that’s how it is. Well, Gabe, when you’re not around I like to watch The People’s Court. So when we’re together we always watch The People’s Court.

Gabe: [00:19:12] You watch The People’s Court when I’m not around?

Michelle: [00:19:13] I try to.

Gabe: [00:19:14] I never watch Jeopardy when you’re not around. Like that’s only something that I do with you because I only get joy when you’re around. And truthfully I think the only joy that I get is watching you watch it. Listen I think that sometimes people miss the idea that self care doesn’t necessarily mean getting your way. You know so many people are like self care is doing what you want to do and it is. There’s a part of that, but self care is also about finding joy in things maybe you wouldn’t find joy in. And I think of things like, let’s take marriage for example. When you’re married you have to go to places or eat at restaurants or experience things that you wouldn’t seek on your own. I did not want to see Hamilton.

Michelle: [00:19:57] Why not? It’s supposed to be amazing. I want to see it so badly but the tickets are expensive.

Gabe: [00:20:00] But my wife wanted to see it so I went.

Michelle: [00:20:03] I’ll go . I’ll go with your wife. You buy the tickets and I’ll go with your wife.

Gabe: [00:20:07] It’s too late we already went.

Michelle: [00:20:08] Well, you didn’t invite me!

Gabe: [00:20:09] Maybe, but there’s an example. Though I did not want to go but I agreed to go. I got dressed up, we went out to a nice dinner, and I enjoyed myself. I both enjoyed the play and I enjoyed sharing it with somebody, making my wife happy. It’s also about the pageantry of putting on a suit. My wife and I don’t wear nice clothes around each other very often and it doesn’t matter if it’s Hamilton in a nice restaurant or if it’s just going to the Taco Bell in the nice section of town around the corner. Make it special. There’s all kinds of ways to take the mundane and turn them into better, and that is an example of self care.

Michelle: [00:20:45] This self care really is classified under the problem solving.

Gabe: [00:20:50] Problem solving self care?

Michelle: [00:20:51] This is problem solving.

Gabe: [00:20:52] Dun dun dun.

Michelle: [00:20:53] Yeah. All of this is really is problem solving self care. This is what we’re really discussing right now.

Gabe: [00:20:59] I agree.

Michelle: [00:21:00] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:21:00] You read an article didn’t you?

Michelle: [00:21:03] Possibly.

Gabe: [00:21:03] I’m sorry.

Michelle: [00:21:04] I did some research. Yes, what can I say? What can I say? I know.

Gabe: [00:21:08] You know, nobody has ever called you illiterate, Michelle.

Michelle: [00:21:11] Nobody. Nobody’s ever called me a illiterate since I learned how to read. I learned how to read, Gabe, one day.

Gabe: [00:21:16] You know jokes are funny. You asked earlier about things that you can seek out on the internet. Jokes. There’s jokes everywhere.

Michelle: [00:21:23] There’s jokes everywhere.

Gabe: [00:21:24] And there’s there’s inspirational writing.

Michelle: [00:21:26] Yes.

Gabe: [00:21:27] That’s always fun.

Michelle: [00:21:28] Watching TV like TV can be self care. I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve been a huge fan since I was eight years old. And you know with the beauty of you know online streaming services and stuff like that I now can just go on to any one of those. Know the episode that I’m looking for. Watch it. And I feel that feeling of just like comfort. And it makes me feel better because I know the feeling that I get when I watch that specific episode. Like the episode where Buffy has to kill Angel and the devastation.

Gabe: [00:22:02] No.

Michelle: [00:22:02] It’s just I it’s like when I’m depressed I watch that episode and I’m like at least I didn’t have to kill my love. You know?

Gabe: [00:22:10] Wow.

Michelle: [00:22:11] She leaves town and goes to L.A.

Gabe: [00:22:13] Does Buffy kill her podcast co-host?

Michelle: [00:22:15] She doesn’t have a podcast, that didn’t exist.

Gabe: [00:22:19] OK. So I’m safe. That’s what I’m hearing.

Michelle: [00:22:21] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:22:21] But your significant other? You might have to kill someday?

Michelle: [00:22:24] Only if she tries to end the world and takes the sword out of Acathla as he’s going to swallow the world. And the only way to save the world is to kill her and send her to hell.

Gabe: [00:22:37] I know your significant other and she’s not that motivated. We’ll be fine.

Michelle: [00:22:40] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:22:42] Here’s some other like just real quick self-help tips that people don’t think of. Brush your teeth.

Michelle: [00:22:46] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:22:47] Eat something healthy. Make a meal, like make pageantry out of, you know? Don’t just grab the chips or you know the bagel bites in the microwave, actually cook a meal. There take a shower, shave, take a walk around the block, go to the gym. I mean it ramps up from here.

Michelle: [00:23:03] Exercise is great self care.

Gabe: [00:23:05] I’m not going to do that. But you’re right it is great self care.

Michelle: [00:23:10] It is and also joining a sports team. Any kind of club team is also great self care too.

Gabe: [00:23:16] People don’t think about that a lot, especially adults. You know I talked to a lot of people over the age of 50 and over the age of 40 because I’m at that age, and like I don’t know what to do for self care and I say like have you ever considered joining like a book club or a bowling league? And they’re like well but isn’t that like for young people? No, and one of the things that you turned me onto a long time ago, which is in your Jeopardy theme, is a lot of sports bars and bars like during the week will have trivia nights.

Michelle: [00:23:41] Yes.

Gabe: [00:23:41] Trivia nights are a lot of fun and you don’t have to sign up, you just have to show up so you show up and you can have fun. And listen, what’s really cool about them that I found out is that most people just suck. They just suck at trivia night but it’s a lot of fun. There’s always like a couple of teams are taking it like really serious and.

Michelle: [00:23:58] People take it ridiculously seriously.

Gabe: [00:24:01] Yeah.

Michelle: [00:24:01] Like ridiculous.

Gabe: [00:24:01] But at least half the room is just like, “Huh, trivia is hard.” But they’re still having fun.

Michelle: [00:24:07] I’ve never placed in regular trivia above second to last place.

Gabe: [00:24:11] Second to last place? So you beat somebody?

Michelle: [00:24:13] One time only. Because one of the sections was Disney.

Gabe: [00:24:17] One of the sections was Disney?

Michelle: [00:24:18] Yeah. That’s how I got 2nd to last place.

Gabe: [00:24:20] Didn’t you participate in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia?

Michelle: [00:24:20] Yes I have many times and I have placed and I’ve never placed below fourth. I’ve got to go first second third and fourth.

Gabe: [00:24:29] Oh wow so you did get first when it was very specific to an amount of knowledge that you had.

Michelle: [00:24:33] Yeah I only placed first the one time where I was alone.

Gabe: [00:24:37] So if I want to take first in a trivia contest I should find like bullshit trivia?

Michelle: [00:24:42] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:24:42] Because I would place first.

Michelle: [00:24:44] If it was mental health trivia you would.

Gabe: [00:24:46] Oh my God. Could you imagine? You and I we would dominate it.

Michelle: [00:24:49] We would dominate mental health trivia.

Gabe: [00:24:51] Not only would we dominate but like if any of the stereotypes were the answer we’d correct it.

Michelle: [00:24:54] Oh, my God. We should have mental health trivia night somewhere. We should start that.

Gabe: [00:25:00] This is an excellent idea.

Michelle: [00:25:02] We should have a little contest or something.

Gabe: [00:25:06] A contest?

Michelle: [00:25:06] A mental health contest. Mental health, we should do something. But how do we know?

Gabe: [00:25:08] Eh, people are going to Google.

Michelle: [00:25:10] They’re gonna google.

Gabe: [00:25:12] I’ve got the first question though and they won’t be able to Google. I figured it out, Michelle. All right everybody, using show@PsychCentral.com, send us an email with the nicest thing that somebody did for you to help you cope with your own mental illness. So a nice story about a friend, a caregiver, a stranger. All stories are welcome. Please send them to show@PsychCentral.com. And if we use it on the air we’ll send you stickers because we’re chill like that.

Michelle: [00:25:39] Or a talking mental health T-shirt, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:25:42] That is so mean. Why you gotta be mocking the talking mental t-shirts?

Michelle: [00:25:45] I’m not. I’m not mocking them. I’m saying we should send them more than stickers, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:25:50] All right, I will revise it. The winner, the best story, the most moving and meaningful story, will get A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast care package, including more than just stickers. But all of the other stories that we use on an upcoming show, will just get stickers. Fair?

Michelle: [00:26:07] But you have to actually write a good story.

Gabe: [00:26:12] Yeah, you got to read a good story.

Michelle: [00:26:13] You can’t just say, “My buddy gave me a Kit Kat and I was so happy about it.”

Gabe: [00:26:19] I mean you can, but you’re not going to win and we’re not going to use it on the show. And now I want to Kit Kat.

Michelle: [00:26:24] We have some downstairs.

Gabe: [00:26:24] Sweet. That’s where we’re off to. Thank you everybody for tuning into this week’s episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and Podcast. If you are on iTunes we would love your five star review. Write a review, like use your words. Tell people why they should listen and please share us on social media. Email us to your friends, help us go world wide famous. And finally, if you work for BuzzFeed, or know anybody that works for BuzzFeed, where’s our love? Please write a story on us. We will see everybody next week on you’re supposed to yell out A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast.

Michelle: [00:27:04] A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast!

Gabe: [00:27:06] Thanks everybody for tuning in. And we will see you next week.

Narrator: [00:27:15] You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. This show’s official web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com. Thank you for listening, and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.

MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.

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How Big Is Your Tomato? How I Adapt the Pomodoro Technique for My ADHD Brain

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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A few minutes ago, I was sitting in front of my computer, writing, when my dogs came to the bottom of the stairs and started whining. They can’t climb the stairs to my second-floor office themselves, so I went down to carry them up. For most people, no big deal, a momentary disruption. But for someone with ADHD? Well, you know how it goes. It’s a miracle that I’m actually back at my desk. So often, disruption of a task means I end up somewhere else in my house, doing something entirely different, or just staring into space, wondering how I got here.

This incredible sensitivity to disruption is why I struggled with the popular Pomodoro technique. You probably know how it works: set a timer for 25 minutes (the founder’s was shaped like a tomato, thus the name.); start working; when the timer goes off, take a five minute break, and begin again.

This simple format is actually incredibly powerful — 25 minutes is a manageable amount of time for deeply focused work. Enough time to get started but not enough to get burned out or bored. It can help you bust through procrastination by working in short sprints, rather than wasting long hours due to divided attention. Twenty-five minutes, like the tomato timer itself, is unintimidating. You can do anything for that long. By observing this straightforward method, you can complete long tasks, one pomodoro at a time.

Only, I can’t. The problem is the final step: begin again. Like many people with ADHD, I struggle to get focused, but once I get there, I can stay for relatively long chunks of time. While I don’t usually get into full hyperfocus states, I can maintain a quiet mind for a while once I settle in. But any disruption, like my dogs crying, or the Pomodoro technique’s five minute break, mean I have to start all over again.

I am “slow in, slow out,” and so the 30 minute scheme simply does not work for me. It takes me almost the whole block to get into a groove where I’m working effectively, then when the timer goes off, I’m gone again. When the break begins, I still want to work, but by the time it’s over, I’ve moved on to something else, abandoning the task that was just getting going.

But! That doesn’t mean ADHD folks can’t reap the benefits of the magic pomodoro. The 25-minute block need not be hard and fast. Even for those without ADHD, it’s not appropriate for every task. In fact, productivity research by the Draugiem Group found that the work-break ratio that the most productive workers in an office used was an average of 53 minutes on and 17 minutes off. A much friendlier ratio for my brain! But I still wanted to tweak it a little to figure out the optimal “tomato size” for me.

What I’ve found works best for me, in most situations, is a 1.5 hour work block, followed by a 30-minute (or even hour) long break. As a freelance writer, I’m fortunate to have the freedom to play with my schedule. This scheme allows me time to work my way in to a focused state, and the break is long enough to do something restorative, like walk the dogs, meditate, do a short yoga practice, or prep something for dinner. Where the five minute break felt too short to be useful (while still long enough to be disruptive), the longer break lets me relax and return to work with my energy replenished. It’s also long enough to promote getting the heck away from the computer — necessary for a break to truly be restorative. As I worked to implement this scheduling habit, I found myself asking a few questions:

If I’m Focused, Why Can’t I Take a Longer Break?

In my experience, the inability to consistently focus means that I live in fear. When I’m focused, I try to get everything I can done because I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get back to that state. In addition, the trademark ADHD lack of inhibitory control means it’s hard to stop something that feels good — and focus can feel very good.

So, what’s wrong with keeping on, if the work is going well? First off, you will burn out if you keep working until you stop on your own. But second of all, learning to exercise inhibitory control and develop consistent work habits is essential to the management of ADHD, and building something that you can manage all or most of the time will cut down the fear and anxiety that is often comorbid with ADHD.

But an Hour and a Half is SO LONG …

Yes. The thing about my personal magic ratio is that it eliminates one of the major benefits of the pomodoro: the approachability of the short burst. It may be just as true that you can do anything for 90 minutes as 25, but to me it really sounds like a lot more suffering. So I do something I call the “Trick Pomodoro.” It goes like this: for tasks that I really don’t want to start, from work to housework, I tell myself that I’ll start with a regular pomodoro, but that I don’t have to honor the break. In most situations, once 25 minutes has elapsed, the task feels more manageable and I can continue.

So, that’s what works for me. But the real takeaway here is that the pomodoro is flexible and that following someone else’s system is pointless if it doesn’t work for you. In fact, these longer breaks may be harder for some ADHD types, or for tasks that are particularly odious. For these folks or activities, a seven minute work session with a three minute break might work best. So if the pomodoro appeals to you but the specifics don’t suit your work style, play with it until you find a ratio that works.

How Big Is Your Tomato? How I Adapt the Pomodoro Technique for My ADHD Brain

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Four Steps to Manage Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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When I was a young girl, I struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I believed that if I landed on a crack in the sidewalk, something terrible would happen to me, so I did my best to skip over them. I feared that if I had bad thoughts of any kind, I would go to hell.

To purify myself, I would go to confession and Mass over and over again, and spend hours praying the rosary. I felt if I didn’t compliment someone, like the waitress where we were eating dinner, I would bring on the end of the world.

What Is OCD?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines OCD as a “common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” OCD involves a painful, vicious cycle whereby you are tormented by thoughts and urges to do things, and yet when you do the very things that are supposed to bring you relief, you feel even worse and enslaved to your disorder.

The results of one study indicated that more than one quarter of the adults interviewed experienced obsession or compulsions at some point in their lives — that’s over 60 million people — even though only 2.3 percent of people met the criteria for a diagnosis of OCD at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization has ranked OCD as one of the top 20 causes of illness-related disability worldwide for individuals between 15 and 44 years of age.

Whenever I am under considerable stress, or when I hit a depressive episode, my obsessive-compulsive behavior returns. This is very common. OCD breeds on stress and depression. A resource that has been helpful to me is the book Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. He offers a four-step self-treatment for OCD that can free you from painful symptoms and even change your brain chemistry.

Distinguishing Form from Content of OCD

Before I go over the four steps, I wanted to go over two concepts he explains in the book that I found very helpful to understanding obsessive-compulsive behavior. The first is knowing the difference between the form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and its content.

The form consists of the thoughts and urges not making sense but constantly intruding into a person’s mind — the thought that won’t go away because the brain is not working properly. This is the nature of the beast. The content is the subject matter or genre of the thought. It’s why one person feels something is dirty, while another can’t stop worrying about the door being locked.

The OCD Brain

The second concept that is fascinating and beneficial to a person in the throes of OCD’s torture is to see a picture of the OCD brain. In order to help patients understand that OCD is, in fact, a medical condition resulting from a brain malfunction, Schwartz and his colleagues at UCLA used PET scanning to take pictures of brains besieged by obsessions and compulsive urges. The scans showed that in people with OCD, there was increased energy in the orbital cortex, the underside of the front of the brain. This part of the brain is working overtime.

According to Schwartz, by mastering the Four Steps of cognitive-biobehavioral self-treatment, it is possible to change the OCD brain chemistry so that the brain abnormalities no longer cause the intrusive thoughts and urges.

Step One: Relabel

Step one involves calling the intrusive thought or urge exactly what it is: an obsessive thought or a compulsive urge. In this step, you learn how to identify what’s OCD and what’s reality. You might repeat to yourself over and over again, “It’s not me — it’s OCD,” working constantly to separate the deceptive voice of OCD from your true voice. You constantly inform yourself that your brain is sending false messages that can’t be trusted.

Mindfulness can help here. By becoming an observer of our thoughts, rather than the author of them, we can take a step back in loving awareness and simply say, “Here comes an obsession. It’s okay … It will pass,” instead of getting wrapped up in it and investing our emotions into the content. We can ride the intensity much like a wave in the ocean, knowing that the discomfort won’t last if we can stick in there and not act on the urge.

Step Two: Reattribute

After you finish the first step, you might be left asking, “Why don’t these bothersome thoughts and urges go away?” The second step helps answer that question. Schwartz writes:

The answer is that they persist because they are symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition that has been scientifically demonstrated to be related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that causes your brain to misfire. There is now strong scientific evidence that in OCD a part of your brain that works much like a gearshift in a car is not working properly. Therefore, your brain gets stuck in gear. As a result, it’s hard for you to shift behaviors. Your goal in the Reattribute step is to realize that the sticky thoughts and urges are due to your balky brain.

In the second step, we blame the brain, or in 12-step language, admit we are powerless and that our brain is sending false messages. We must repeat, “It’s not me — it’s just my brain.” Schwartz compares OCD to Parkinson’s disease — both interestingly are caused by disturbances in a brain structure called the striatum — in that it doesn’t help to lambast ourselves for our tremors (in Parkinson’s) or upsetting thoughts and urges (in OCD). By reattributing the pain to the medical condition, to the faulty brain wiring, we empower ourselves to respond with self-compassion.

Step Three: Refocus

In step three, we shift into action, our saving grace. “The key to the Refocus step is to do another behavior,” explains Schwartz. “When you do, you are repairing the broken gearshift in your brain.” The more we “work around” the nagging thoughts by refocusing our attention on some useful, constructive, enjoyable activity, the more our brain starts shifting to other behaviors and away from the obsessions and compulsions.

Step three requires a lot of practice, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Says Schwartz: “A key principle in self-directed cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD is this: It’s not how you feel, it’s what you do that counts.”

The secret of this step, and the hard part, is going on to another behavior even though the OCD thought or feeling is still there. At first, it’s extremely wearisome because you are expending a significant amount of energy processing the obsession or compulsion while trying to concentrate on something else. However, I completely agree with Schwartz when he says, “When you do the right things, feelings tend to improve as a matter of course. But spend too much time being overly concerned about uncomfortable feelings, and you may never get around to doing what it takes to improve.”

This step is really at the core of self-directed cognitive behavioral therapy because, according to Schwartz, we are fixing the broken filtering system in the brain and getting the automatic transmission in the caudate nucleus to start working again.

Step Four: Revalue

The fourth step can be understood as an accentuation of the first two steps, Relabeling and Reattributing. You are just doing them with more insight and wisdom now. With consistent practice of the first three steps, you can better acknowledge that the obsessions and urges are distractions to be ignored. “With this insight, you will be able to Revalue and devalue the pathological urges and fend them off until they begin to fade,” writes Schwartz.

Two ways of “actively revaluing,” he mentions are anticipating and accepting. It’s helpful to anticipate that obsessive thoughts will occur hundreds of times a day and not to be surprised by them. By anticipating them, we recognize them more quickly and can Relabel and Reattribute when they arise. Accepting that OCD is a treatable medical condition — a chronic one that makes surprise visits — allows us to respond with self-compassion when we are hit with upsetting thoughts and urges.

Four Steps to Manage Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Recovery from Depression and Anxiety

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Recovering from depression and anxiety call for the same kind of shrewdness and amount of perspiration as does running a 4,000-person company. I say that having never done the latter. But hear out my logic: great leaders must master impeccable governing skills, develop the discipline of a triathlete, and build enough stamina to manage multiple personalities. And so does anyone wanting to get outside of her head and live a little.

So I think it’s fitting to translate the insight of a book about business success, The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price by Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, to victory over a mood disorder, or even mild but annoying anxiety and depression.

Weinzimmer and McConoughey describe their “taxonomy of leadership mistakes,” or nine common ways an executive falls flat on his face and is made fun of by his peers. The business world is replete with calculated risks. It’s a chess game, and a few too many wrong moves will have you packing up your stuff from the corner office.

As I read through them, I kept thinking about my main job — managing my depression as best I can — and the pitfalls that I so often run into. Many are the same listed in this book. Here are six mistakes business leaders make that are appropriate for our purposes:

Mistake one: Trying to be all things to all people.

The “just say no” problem that I have all the time. If you think of requests from friends, families, bosses, co-workers, and golden retrievers as customers asking you for all kinds of products that you can’t simultaneously produce, then you see the logic in your having to draw the line at some point. You must hang on to your resources to stay well.

Mistake two: Roaming outside the box.

Clarification: thinking outside the box is good. Hanging out there, strolling around in pursuit of some meaning that you keep finding in everything that passes by — that’s dangerous. When it comes to recovery, this is very important to remember. I like to try new things: yoga, new fish oil supplements, a new light lamp, different support groups.

What gets me in trouble is when I start to think that I don’t have bipolar disorder and can go off all meds, healing myself through meditation alone. I tried that once and landed in the hospital twice. Now I double check to make sure the box is still in my peripheral vision.

Mistake three: Efficiencies before effectiveness.

This has to do with seeing the forest behind the trees, and subscribing to a policy of making decisions based on the view of the forest, not the trees that are blocking everything from your sight. The authors cite the example of Circuit City’s CEO who cut 3,400 sales people to decrease costs despite the fact that their research said that customers want knowledgeable sales people to help them make decisions when buying electronics. His approach was efficient, but not all that effective.

When you are desperate to feel better, it’s so easy to reach for the Band-Aid — booze, cigarettes, toxic relationships — that might do an efficient job of killing the pain. Effective in the longterm? Not so much.

Mistake four: Dysfunctional harmony.

Like me! Like me! Please like me! Dysfunctional harmony involves abandoning your needs to please others, which jeopardizes your recovery efforts.

“Being an effective leader [or person in charge of one’s health] means that sometimes you will not make the most popular decisions,” the authors explain. “By doing what is necessary, you will sometimes make some people angry. That’s okay. It’s part of the job. If you are in a leadership role and you try to be liked by everyone all of the time, you will inevitably create drama and undercut your own authority and effectiveness.”

So think of yourself as the CEO of you and start making some authoritative decisions that are in the best interest of You, Inc.

Mistake five: Hoarding

I’m not talking about your sister’s stash of peanuts and Q-Tips. This is about hoarding responsibility. For those of us trying like hell to live a good and happy life, this means giving over the reins now and then to other people, persons, and things that can help us: doctors, husbands, sisters, even pets. It means relying on the people in your life who say they love you and letting them do the small things so that you can try your best to be the best boss of yourself again.

Mistake six: Disengagement

Burnout. It happens in all recovery. I have yet to meet someone who can continue a regiment of daily meditation, boot camp, and spinach and cucumber smoothies for more than three months without calling uncle and reaching for the pepperoni pizza. That’s why it is so critical to pace yourself in your recovery. What’s a realistic number of times to exercise during the week? Are you really going to do that at 4:30 am? Why not allow yourself one day of hotdogs and ice-cream in order to not throw out the whole healthy living initiative at once?

Imagine yourself a great leader of your mind, body, and spirit — managing a staff of personalities inside yourself that need direction. Take it from these two corporate leaders, and don’t make the same mistakes.

6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Recovery from Depression and Anxiety

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Why It’s Okay to Cry in Public

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I waited three months after I was discharged from the hospital for suicidal depression to make contact with the professional world again. I wanted to be sure I didn’t “crack,” like I had done in a group therapy session. A publishing conference seemed like an ideal, safe place to meet. A crowded room of book editors would certainly prevent any emotional outbursts on my part. So I reached out to colleague who had been feeding me assignments pre-nervous breakdown and invited her for a cup of coffee.

“How are you?” she asked me.

I stood there frozen, trying my best to mimic the natural smile I had practiced in front of the bathroom mirror that would accompany the words, “Fine! Thank you. How are you?”

Instead I burst into tears. Not a cute little whimper. A loud and ugly bawling — pig snorts included — the kind of sobbing widows do behind closed doors when the funeral is done.

“There’s the beginning and the end,” I thought. “Time to pay the parking bill.”

But something peculiar happened in that excruciating exchange: we bonded.

Embarrassment Leads to Trust

Researchers at the University of California, Berkley conducted five studies that confirmed this very phenomena: embarrassment — and public crying certainly qualifies as such — has a positive role in the bonding of friends, colleagues, and mates. The findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest that people who embarrass easily are more altruistic, prosocial, selfless, and cooperative. In their gestures of embarrassment, they earn greater trust because others classify the transparency of expression (buried head, blushing, crying) as trustworthiness.

Robb Willer, Ph.D., an author of the study, writes, “Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources. It’s part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life.”

Now public crying is even better than splitting your swimsuit in half during swim practice or asking a woman when her baby is due only to learn it was born four months ago (also guilty). Tears serve many uses. According to Dr. William Frey II, a biochemist and Director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, emotional tears (as opposed to tears of irritability) remove toxins as well as chemicals like the endorphin leucine-enkaphalin and prolactin that have built up in the body from stress. Crying also lowers a person’s manganese level, a mineral that affects mood.

In a New York Times article, science writer Jane Brody quotes Dr. Frey:

Crying is an exocrine process, that is, a process in which a substance comes out of the body. Other exocrine processes, like exhaling, urinating, defecating and sweating, release toxic substances from the body. There’s every reason to think crying does the same, releasing chemicals that the body produces in response to stress.

Crying Builds a Community

Anthropologist Ashley Montagu once said in a Science Digest article that crying builds a community. Having done my share of public crying this last year, I think he is right.

If you spot a person crying in the back of the room at, say, a school fundraiser, your basic instinct (if you are a nice person) is to go comfort that person. Yeah, there’s the voice that says she’s pathetic for displaying public emotions, much like the couple fighting in the hallway; however, you want the crying to end because on some level it makes you uncomfortable — you want everyone to be happy, like the mom who pops a pacifier or a stick of butter into her 6-year-old’s mouth to shut him up.

The high sensitive types begin to swarm around this woman, as she divulges her life story. Voila! You find yourself with a group of new best friends in an Oprah moment, each person offering intimate details about herself. A women’s retreat has started, and there is no need for a lake house.

In a 2009 study published in Evolutionary Psychology, participants responded to images of faces with tears and faces with tears digitally removed, as well as tear-free control images. It was determined that tears signaled sadness and resolved ambiguity. According to Robert R. Provine, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, tears are a kind of social lubricant, helping people communicate. Says the abstract: “The evolution and development of emotional tearing in humans provide a novel, potent and neglected channel of affective communication.”

In a February 2016 study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, researchers replicated and extended previous work by showing that tearful crying facilitates helping behavior and identified why people are more willing to help criers. First, the display of tears increases perceived helplessness of a person, which leads to a higher willingness to help that person. Second, crying individuals are typically perceived to be more agreeable and less aggressive and elicit more sympathy and compassion.

The third reason I find most interesting: seeing tears makes us feel more closely connected to the crying individual. According to the study, “This increase in felt connectedness with a crying individual could also promote prosocial behavior. In other words, the closer we feel to another individual, the most altruistically we behave towards that person.” The authors refer to ritual weeping, say, after adversity and disasters or when preparing for war. Those common tears build bonds between people.

I don’t LIKE crying. And certainly not in front of people. It feels humiliating, like I’m not in control of my emotions. However, I no longer practice smiling in front of the mirror or the sentiments that are packaged with the grin. I have learned to embrace my PDT — public display of tears — and be my transparent self, even if the result is more pig snorts.

Why It’s Okay to Cry in Public

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7 Simple Ways to Ease Anxiety

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Anxiety serves a life-saving role when we are in real danger. Adrenaline pumps through our system, and suddenly we can run like Usain Bolt and lift a 200-pound man without much effort. However, most of the time, anxiety is like a fire alarm with a dead battery that beeps annoyingly every five minutes when there is absolutely nothing to worry about. We experience the heart palpitations, restlessness, panic, and nausea as if a saber-toothed tiger were 20 yards away.

Thankfully there are a few simple gestures to communicate to your body that there is no immediate danger — that it’s a false alarm… yet again. I have used the following activities to calm down my nervous system that is ready for an adventure, and to ease symptoms of anxiety.

Exercise

We have known for decades that exercise can decrease depression and anxiety symptoms, but a 2016 study by researchers at the University of California at David Medical Center demonstrates how. They found that exercise increased the level of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, both of which are depleted in the brains of persons with depression and anxiety. The study showed that aerobic exercise activates the metabolic pathways that replenish these neurotransmitters, allowing the brain to communicate with the body.

You need not commit huge amounts of time. Short, ten-minute intervals of intense exercise (such as sprints) can trigger the same brain changes as long, continuous workouts.

Drink Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs and has been used to treat a variety of conditions including panic and insomnia. Its sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Chamomile extracts exhibit benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity as evidenced in a study with sleep-disturbed rats.

In a study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to the patients taking placebos.

Laugh

It’s difficult to panic and laugh at the same time. There’s a physiological reason for this. When we panic, we generate all kinds of stress hormones that send SOS signals throughout our body. However, when we laugh, those same hormones are reduced.

In a study done at Loma Linda University in California in the 1980s, Lee Berk, DrPH and his research team assigned five men to an experimental group who viewed a 60-minute humor video and five to a control group, who didn’t. They found that the “mirthful laughter experience” reduced serum levels of cortisol, epinephrine, dihydrophenylacetic acid (dopac), and growth hormone.

Take Deep Breaths

Every relaxation technique that mitigates the stress response and halts our “fight or flight or I’m-dying-get-the-heck-out-of-my-way” reaction is based in deep breathing. I find it miraculous how something as simple as slow abdominal breathing has the power to calm down our entire nervous system. One way it does this is by stimulating our vagus nerve — our BFF in the middle of a panic because it releases a variety of anti-stress enzymes and calming hormones such as acetylcholine, prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin.

Three basic approaches to deep breathing are coherent breathing, resistance breathing, and breath moving. But really, all you need to do is inhale to a count of six and exhale to a count of six, moving the breath from your chest to your diaphragm.

Eat Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has one of the highest concentrations of magnesium in a food — with one square providing 327 milligrams, or 82 percent of your daily value — and magnesium is an important mineral for calming down the nervous system. According to a 2012 study in the journal Neuropharmacology, magnesium deficiencies induce anxiety, which is why the mineral is known as the original chill pill. Dark chocolate also contains large amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin, and theobromine, another mood-elevating compound. The higher percentage of cocoa the better (aim for at least 85 percent), because sugar can reverse the benefits of chocolate and contribute to your anxiety.

Color

Use anything that can distract you from the fire alarm going off every five minutes in your head—from the distressing thoughts and ruminations. Many people I know use coloring books to divert their attention. I now see them in doctor’s offices and acupuncture centers. A study published in Occupational Therapy International demonstrated that activities such as drawing and other arts and crafts can stimulate the neurological system and enhance well-being. This is partly because they help you stay fully present and they can be meditative. They are especially helpful for people like me who struggle with formal meditation.

Cry

You have to be careful with crying, as it has the potential you feel worse. However, I’ve always felt a huge release after a good cry. There’s a biological explanation for this. Tears remove toxins from our body that build up from stress, like the endorphin leucine-enkephalin and prolactin, the hormone that causes aggression. And what’s really fascinating is that emotional tears — those formed in distress or grief — contain more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (like onion peeling). Crying also lowers manganese levels, which triggers anxiety, nervousness, and aggression. In that way, tears elevate mood.

I like Benedict Carey’s reference to tears as “emotional perspiration” in his New York Times piece, The Muddled Track of All Those Tears. He writes, “They’re considered a release, a psychological tonic, and to many a glimpse of something deeper: the heart’s own sign language, emotional perspiration from the well of common humanity.”

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