Mindfulness and meditation can help stop or reduce drinking or using recreational drugs

Many people struggle with drinking. Even those that don’t meet criteria for Alcoholism know that they drink too much but feel powerless to reduce their alcohol intake. As with any self destructive, addictive behavior, there is seemingly an auto-pilot that takes over and instead of taking a step back and looking at the anxiety and other forms of distress, people tend to self-medicate with alcohol, often trying to pre-empt the anxiety or poor mood before it takes hold.

I have noticed using mindfulness throughout the day and/or meditation really works for reducing alcohol as well as drug use. I have noticed clients being able to refrain from substances by using these techniques. A lot of the drinking or drug use people engage in is an automatic, self-soothing response.

When you put space in between the experience and the difficult feelings that come from the experience, instead of automatically self-soothing, you may find that you can reduce your reliance on substances (or other bad self-soothing habit). You gradually start to be able to manage your own emotions. Take  a bit of time every now and then to notice your thoughts and feeling. Not engage with them and wrestle with them as people often automatically do, but just pay attention and observe. This mindfulness is important in gauging where you are in your thoughts and feelings and whether your experiencing “fight or flight” that which you would feel compelled to self sooth with a substance or unwelcome behavior.  Knowing how close you are to losing control and using is key to being able to redirect your attention and redirect your action to something healthy and non-substance related.

Meditating for 10 – 20 minutes often can take the edge off of your distressed feelings, anxiety, etc. The world feels less crazy, you feel less endangered. You may opt to strategically place your meditation just before, in the middle or just after a stressful time. This helps you refresh and revitalize your mind and spirit making you better able to withstand the stress/ distress and look at things with rational, more calm perspective.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Mini-panics

People with anxiety, whether in a high pressured job, relationship or even those who are troubled by day to day “life stuff”, encounter what I call mini-panics. This is a state where you do not recognize all the details of what is going on and you react as though the absolute worst possible reality has suddenly descended upon you. Many folks live their days full of such moments and it makes for a very anxious time indeed. This typically happens when one sees an unfavorable outcome happening and has automatic thoughts about it, judges him or herself in the extreme and engages in catastrophic thinking about the situation as a whole. Such a state brings about feelings of fright, dread, sadness among other distressing feelings all because you’ve likely focused solely on one particular upsetting aspect and your mind run away with it.

When one is in a panic, it is very hard to settle down and be reasonable about your thoughts and actions. One tends to think and act more impulsively and can go into a doomsday scenario. Pay attention to yourself when you feel such mini-panics coming on. If you can simply notice when it begins to happen, you can redirect your attention to other qualities of your inner environment (i.e. breathing, body sensations) or outer environment (sounds, sights). Also, just the increased practice of simple noticing or observing can strengthen your overall ability not to hyper-focus on the negative and hone your ability to experience a more wholistic reality (and feel ok about it).

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Coping Skill 9: The news may increase your anxiety: Turn off TV, computer screen or any electronic screen.

This is a similar concept to C.S. #1, but this skill starts with the ability to get up and turn the TV (or computer) off or reach for the remote and squeeze the off button. For many, these are troubling times. The coverage on news TV or internet news is so thorough that it may be too thorough. The news is often negative and you feel easily compelled to think and to ruminate about all the negative, sad, irritating aspects of existence. Your mind may be all too eager to embrace the tidal wave of negative information heading our way not just at a daily rate but even minute by minute. This increases your anxiety level and for others it increases angry feelings as well. It can also inspire feelings of hopelessness and helplessness: a perfect recipe for depression! Resist the urge to chase after more and more news which is often very troubling. Here’s a simple, informal experiment. Turn off your screens as much as possible each day, see if you can cut screen time by half (for starters). Check in with your anxiety level after 2 weeks. If there is any positive difference, continue/repeat and see if there are continued results. If so, this may be a good permanent life style change for you.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unreliable Narrator

Greetings and welcome back! It’s been a while. I have of late been very drawn to the area of Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy. One of the keystones of these concepts is the idea that your thoughts can be “extra” and can lead to unwanted and unneeded troubling feelings. We do not just think of the moment but think about all the various possible realities – not all of them good ones.  Enter the unreliable narrator.

In literature you may have come to know the concept of the unreliable narrator. This is entertaining literary device with which the writer of the story allows his narrator to tell a skewed story that is subjective to the narrator himself (or a lie he is telling you) but goes adrift from the truth. Much like this Unreliable Narrator in a story, our own brains can narrate unreliably and indeed lie to us about what is really going on in our lives. For instance, have you ever told yourself that the goal in which you didn’t succeed as ruined your life, has proven that you are a failure? All of this grand negative truth extrapolated by one simple unsuccessful venture. Just as no professional study would consider one small piece of information as conclusive evidence for an entire study, one experience on one day (or a couple in a few weeks) does not prove you to be a failure. Regardless, our minds often go on automatic pilot and assume we fail at life because of a few setbacks.

We must regard the unreliable narrator as what it is, untrustworthy and a waist of our attention. You must observe that it is there and in fact trying to narrate your story BUT simply say “I hear you but no thank you”.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Body Scan your way to reduced stress (8)

When we are utilizing mindful techniques, one thing we are to do is limit our prioritization of distress and instead put more of our attention onto neutral stimuli. One simple and effective way of doing this is through body scanning. No, this is not an excerpt from a science fiction movie where people are scanned by otherworldly beings. You are in full control of your own body scan and no sci-fi devices needed! Just give yourself 5-10 minutes, close your eyes and very slowly, bring your attention through every little quadrant of your body. You may choose to start with your fingertips and then fingers, then palms, etc. Begin your curious inquiry: what do the sensations feel like in these areas. Is there discomfort, stress or is it relaxed. If you find that there is stress in these areas, this is your opportunity to release that stress. Releasing stress in this way can serve to lower your overall stress/anxiety level.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Cleaning: Coping Skill 6/100

This is a terrific coping skill that I hear from many of my clients. If you are feeling stifled by life, maybe disordered, mentally and/emotionally cluttered if you will, try cleaning or organizing your living space. This can be pleasant and revitalizing. Not only does this serve to give you a nice “livable” living space and can also be a neutral, mindful activity that you can anchor your attention on for a while. If you find that cleaning or tidying has been a go-to coping mechanism for you, you are right on target!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soft Technique: Moving Into The Pain: (C.S.#7)

During a recent MBCT training, I learned of a strange and erroneous sounding coping strategy: moving toward the pain. In past posts, I wrote about how in mindful techniques, we focus subtly and nonjudgmentally on neutral stimuli, such as a sound, or a visual cue, etc. Some are in such physical or emotional distress that the pain cannot be tuned out of your attention.

In certain martial arts,there are soft techniques which are methods that use the momentum of your opponent as a defense to neutralize the opponent. When pain or distress is so intense that it seems as though there is no way to pay attention to anything else, try moving toward it instead of struggling away from it. You may find an entirely different and less unpleasant experience when you turn your attention toward this discomfort. Although this may not work for all, you may find some relief through this method.

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

You make me feel

How often do you attribute your bad feeling to another? Have you ever uttered the phrase: You make me feel so (fill in the blank with “sad”, “mad”, “miserable” “irritated”, I think you get the idea). When we attribute our feelings to another, we are doing both parties an injustice. You are disowning your feeling and holding another person responsible. It causes confusion in your relations and creating a culture of externalizing your feelings, taking them out of your control and causes you to disassociate from them. It is important for you to be in sync with your own feelings, to be in touch with them, in order to hope to gain control of them. When talking to someone who frustrates you, or whom you feel sad in reaction to their actions or comments, you can tell them: when you do [action] I feel [emotion]. This way you are not accusing another and perhaps even squashing a potential fight. This can improve your relationship. Also, you are taking a step toward being more related to your own feelings and owning them. Understanding your feelings/ understanding yourself brings you toward peace of mind and dare I say, feeling OK.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Coping Skill 5/100: Gardening (outdoor OR indoor)

One of the most tranquil and rewarding coping skills I have come across is gardening. What is more relaxing and pleasing to the mind and spirit than planting. Whether you’re planting new seeds inside or sustaining established plants and taking care of them, it can be a nice feeling that can deliver you serenity. I feel one with the earth and at peace while I am in the garden or landscaping. It is an activity that can put you in a flow state and give you something positive to focus on for an extended period of time. So whether you are trimming a bonsai tree, watering pruning your plants inside or out, weeding, planting a garden, etc. these are all activities that can put you in the type of focused frame of mind that can take you away from your blues or anxiety. Then convert that negative energy into something positive and even beautiful.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coping Skill 4/100: Keep a Journal

Recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal can be very calming. It is a great strategy for coping with stress, coping with fears, coping with sadness or depression.It is a good way to connect back with yourself when you have gotten overwhelmed with all that life is throwing at you. You can step back and take notice of the important things. It is a good tool to improve your awareness of the things that really matter to you. It allows you to slow down and think when everything seems to be racing. Clarify your thoughts and feelings and priorities with a journal.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Play a musical instrument (Skill 3/100)

Not everyone has had a history of playing musical instruments. However, music is a universal phenomenon that most (if not all) human beings have a connection with. Even those who have never tried to play an instrument could try it. If you are interested in an instrument that you don’t know how to play, you can get lessons and practice. For those of you fortunate enough to have played instruments (i.e. guitar, piano, saxophone, cello, kazoo, accordion, the list goes on and on!) this is an instant mood stabilizer/anxiety reducer! For those who are not at all interested in playing an instrument, singing is your own inherent musical gift. Such a gift can be activated by singing to yourself at home, walking down the street, in the shower and especially with Karaoke (at a karaoke establishment, on youtube, Karaoke channel On Demand). Music is an essential part of us, get in touch with it and let it uplift you!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coping Skill 2/100: Music

Simple: Get your favorite music. Queue it up on your favored device, computer/laptop, smartphone, MP3 player, tablet or if you’re into the classic modes of music listening, fire up the old record player, Stereo system, CD player, etc. Music, as you know, can be extremely soothing and even uplifting. Just try and listen to your favorite song and not crack a smile (or an internal smile at least). How about your favorite epic album  that has a series of awesome songs that seem to fit together so perfectly! Such music is great for lifting your spirits when you’re down, though when you are anxious or nervous, relaxing, tranquil music can work wonders in settling you down. Take some time, maybe a 1/2 hour to an hour to yourself and just LISTEN!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coping skill 1/100: Do nothing

Yes, that’s right, do nothing other than sit or lay in a quiet space. While you’re sitting or laying sedentarily, you may find yourself settling your mind, your emotions. This is potentially a good space to practice mindfulness and observe sensations in your body, or focus your attention on a single, (preferably) neutral object. Try this for as much as 25-30 minutes or is few as 2-5 minutes and you’re and you may find your anxiety has noticeably diminished.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

100 coping skills in 360 days

Coping skills or coping strategies can often be overlooked as quick treatment for the blues or anxiety. As a coping skill is a strategy, sometimes it takes some thought to plan or strategize what you’re going to do and how your going to do it (which is why I sometimes refer to them as coping strategies). As they are activities or behaviors that you engage in, I don’t consider drugs or other chemicals coping skills though can be used while taking your medication. Simply put, they are positive, life affirming activities that are healthy and fun and engaging.

I am curious which coping skills have worked the best for you. I would like to put together a list of 100 coping skills that everyone can access with ease. I have enabled my comments section so you, valued reader, can contribute your favorite coping skills and I’ll be sure to include it in my list. I look forward to your comments!

 

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

“Self serve” therapeutic intervention: Coping Skills

Coping skills (AKA coping strategies) are the most important as well as taken for granted tool you can use to treat your depression, anxiety and other psychological symptoms. It is an important supplement in your treatment. Coping skills are the “self-serve” therapeutic intervention. When people get depressed anxious or have other psychiatric symptoms, they often stop doing the activities they enjoy. It is these activities that, if returned to, can deliver one into a more stable frame of mind. Next time you are anxious or depressed, try engaging in an activity that you enjoy; something that takes your attention and keeps you occupied for a while. If you are really depressed or anxious,  you may lack the motivation so you’l likely have to really push yourself in order to do it. If you do summon enough motivation to practice the coping skill activity, your mood could very well improve at least for a little while. Fill up your free time trying new coping skills and/or revisiting old ones and that is time you will spend less distressed by your thoughts. Like the title implies, they help you cope!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mindfulness for Road Rage

Keeping cool in the car is not always easy. With other drivers speaking around you, trying to get ahead of you, cutting you off, tailgating, honking, etc. The list goes on and on. Every time you get on the road, regardless of how orderly you are driving, regardless of your road civility, there is a likelihood that someone will test your patience and/or endanger your life. When you experience yourself as being thrown into a dangerous or life threatening situation, fight-or-flight reaction kicks in. This is an instinctive, often involuntary reaction to fear that includes anger, rage (fight) or panic, anxiety (flight); feeling extremely distraught and possibly desperate. This is quite a witch’s brew of distressing feelings that could for many does lead to unpredictable behavior.  The road rage situation can likely last less than 5 seconds. What prolongs it is our continued engagement in the situation.

One of the best and most effective coping techniques for road rage is mindfulness. Practicing Mindfulness techniques can gently redirect your mind from being ultra-focused on the negative situation at hand. Basic Mindfulness techniques will suffice: redirect your awareness  to the simple, pleasant aspects of your environment such as the sounds around you, tastes, smells, etc. Tune in to your body, notice in what area you’re holding the most stress, go there and release it. Just this simple, light diversion could be enough to bring you out of a potential road rage while maintaining your ability to pay attention to your driving.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditation (The New and Improved Post)

I felt that meditation is such an important part of maintaining psychological and emotional wellness, that it warrants further explanation. Forgive me if any of this is repeated from last years meditation post. I decided to keep a lot in for the benefit of cogency, review, etc.

Meditation can be an easy and effective way to reduce anxiety, calm your nerves and improve your mood. Meditation can achieve stress reduction and treat anxiety without the use of medication, a natural antidepressant. It can be achieved in the short term for quick stress reduction or if practiced on a regular basis, it can also have cumulative, progressive effects in the longer term. It has been shown that on going, daily meditation can be effective for mood stabilization, lower anxiety levels and focus in your day to day life and there are studies that show that it even enhances the brain. Here are the most basic methods of how to practice meditation.

Here’s how: find a quiet and place free of noise or other distractions. You may choose to close your eyes if there are visual distractions. Sit still in this quiet space for 10 – 30 minutes (time can be suited to what is most comfortable to you).  In this serene space, do not focus on any thought, but instead, focus on a neutral aspect such as your own breathing. If you choose to use your own breathing to focus on, go ahead and begin to notice the quality of your breath, the speed of it, the intensity, virtually any quality of the breath. If thoughts enter your mind (they very well might), allow them to come and go without engaging them.

Another method of meditating is with Mantra. A Mantra is a simple word or phrase that you say silently to yourself over and over to yourself. Pick a word that does not have much meaning (try saying “one” as some have done) or even a sound word (i.e. “ring”) or even Ohm. If thoughts come, let them and just remember to return to the mantra.

It may sound simple, but to some this may pose as a challenge. That is why it is referred to as the “practice” of meditation. The more you practice, the more effective you become at training your mind not to attach with thoughts that may be tempting to connect with. A crucial lesson meditation can impart to us is to learn how not to over-identify with our own thoughts. Thinking too much brings with it stress, anxiety, sadness, etc. Instead of ruminating on fear, anxiety and things that make us sad, meditation teaches us how to live in the pure, beautiful moment. Practicing such a lifestyle cultivates inner peace.

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strengthen the Observer

A simplified way of understanding the mind in so far as it relates to our thoughts and feelings is a term called the observing self. This is the observance of the fact that you are observing. From a quote from The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris is the observing self is a “state in which we dissociate from the external world and become aware of being aware”. This relates to your ability to observe the fact that you are having thoughts and feelings. You have the ability to notice many things – all things about your own perception and you’re own thoughts and feelings. The more you can do this, the more likely you are to NOT get caught up in your thoughts and feelings. This is an ability you can cultivate and grow.

The more you work on noticing your thoughts and feelings and not simply “being” them, the more your ability to not get caught up in them is strengthened. Getting caught up in your thoughts and feelings produces feelings of distress, anxiety and despair. This is a way to loosen their hold on you and be free of obsessive thoughts, rumination and unrelenting depressed mood. Grow and enhance your observing self at every chance you get by asking yourself questions like “what is happening to me right now? How does my body feel/am I tensing up/why is it tensing up?” Am I starting to become sad, am I starting to feel angry? Engage in a curiosity about this and trace the happenings that led you to feel this way. This type of gentle scrutiny can bring you closer to identifying with the observing self and NOT with your distress. Getting into this habit can ultimately leave you feeling more peaceful, less worried and less depressed.

Aside | Posted on by | 1 Comment

Crying in the Dark: Why and How Psychotherapy Helps

My office is in the 10001 zip code, right down the block from Macy’s department store, down the street from the garment district. It is one of the busiest, most trafficked areas of Manhattan. Walking down 8th avenue in NYC, I see the sights and hear the sounds of people struggling with mental conditions. By the time I get to 35th street where my office is located, I have heard ruminating, yelling, crying, mania, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, etc. This is just coming from people who are vocal/visible in their suffering. I know that many are walking around suffering silently. People often suffer in silence and assume there is no where to turn.

Psychotherapy helps depression, anxiety as well as most other psychological/mental conditions in a number of ways. It is so important to know that you are not alone. As your therapist, I forge an authentic relationship with you in which you come to experience yourself as a significant person who is not alone. In a life situation where you may be feel alone, you come to experience life no longer isolated. This strengthen’s your resilience to whatever the world seems to throw at you. Validation is a keystone of what makes psychotherapy effective and it is the most therapeutic gift i provide you in psychotherapy sessions. In the realizing that you’re experience is real, you’re pain is real; there is healing. Instead of crying in the dark, you come process your pain with an understanding listener who understands what you are going through and appreciates what you’re up against. This kind of support helps you grow and advance further through life. Although sometimes it is not about advancing and more about tolerating everyday struggles and sustaining the courage and will to continue forward.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mindful Rushing

No matter how much we try to live a peaceful, serene existence where you can always be easy, slow and deliberate, there will likely be exceptions – times when it seems there’s no way to slow down enough to be mindful. Running late is an example of this. Perhaps in such a scenario, you have no choice but to hurry to an important appointment.

The other day I was rushing to an appointment and I considered, there’s no reason not to practice mindfulness while rushing. Just because you are moving fast, doesn’t mean you have to lose your mind in panic. While running to you’re appointment (or sitting on a train) where you would otherwise be hyperventilating and/or looking at your watch every second, take this opportunity to be mindful instead. Try slow, deep breathing, paying close attention to how the breaths feel. Check in with yourself. Notice your breathing. Does it seem fast, can it be slowed? Check in with the different sections of your body, can they be calmed? If you are beating yourself up in punishment for running too late, send yourself messages of self compassion and empathize with yourself.

Many of the same techniques you would use to practice mindfulness  in “normal” situations can also apply to stress inducing situations like rushing. Try it and see if your anxiety has rushed away!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can you Walk While Meditating? Can you Meditate While Walking?

Let’s talk about the highly unlikely prospect of being able to meditate while walking. One might assume that walking is an activity that needs full attention, lest one trip or slam into something hurting more than just one’s self-esteem. Well, as it turns out you can practice mindful meditation while walking (AKA meditative walking)  and it happens to be one of the most convenient ways to engage in meditation practice.

Many have a stressful jobs which one would really benefit from some time to break away for anywhere from 5 – 25 minutes to meditate. You’re anxiety could be neutralized with a good meditation or 2 throughout the day. Say you work in a cubicle or out in the field as many tend to do in and around the city. Walking meditation is an effective stress reduction technique. It could be your answer to fitting in stress reduction. You may have limited space and time but this method can allow you mindful, meditative time with yourself to recalibrate your mind and body and leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.

You can do this simply by taking a walk where you will have few obstructions (preferably), hold your gaze low so you can detect obstacles but not high enough that you’ll be intensely aware of the outer world. Check in with your body and sensations of your breathing, the air on your skin, heartbeat, other sensations. Maintain a curiosity of your feelings – physical and emotional, but do not over-identify with them. Do not seek out thoughts or ruminate and instead gently allow thoughts to pass in and out of your mind without attaching to them. Check out this link for some additional instruction. http://www.mindful.org/walk-this-way/

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The importance of being ernest: Authenticity in therapy

There is a certain something that enhances therapeutic relationship. It lets you know that what you have with your therapist is real, truthful, trust worthy. This quality is authenticity.  The feeling of having a real connection with the therapist enhances rapport. It increases your comfort level and you are able to truly open up. In therapy, you will likely process intense memories, intimate thoughts and feelings that can be very difficult to share let alone difficult to feel. The importance of trusting the therapist you choose comes down to this: in order to heal, you need to be able to talk openly without holding back. For most, the only time one feels comfortable enough to speak in this way with another person is if one gets the sense that the person the client is talking with is “for real”. That is how true trust develops and one can go through what he or she needs to go through. I pride myself on being authentic, open and honest. I know that it is the most important characteristic in building true rapport which in turn is what allows the client to speak from the heart and heal.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Mindfulness in stress reduction

A good way of determining if you are engaging in healthy coping behavior (AKA coping skills or coping strategies) or if an unwanted defense mechanism, is regular introspective practice called mindfulness. Practice looking at yourself on a regular basis and being mindful of what you are doing. Is it a behavior that promotes a healthy life or is it physically/medically or psychologically harmful? Prevent harmful defense mechanisms from becoming habit (or breaking the habit that has already occurred) by practicing mindful awareness throughout the day and especially when you are stressed out or bothered by something. Mindfulness can be used to promote mental wellness throughout the day. Especially when you are feeling stressed and down, check in with yourself regularly. You can then redirect your awareness  to the simple, pleasant aspects of your environment such as the sounds around you, tastes, smells, etc. Tune in to your stress, notice where it is in your body. Then practice mindful exercises to alleviate that stress.
Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maladaptive coping mechanisms: externalizing and internalizing

Externalizing or internalizing are mechanisms that can add to stress and generally bring you down. Internalizing occurs when you view problems that have very little or nothing to do with you and attribute them to yourself. When the world’s problems are your fault ,it can be so exhausting, disheartening, depressing. This is a painful habit. It makes you feel bad, like life is a losing battle. What sad and painful existence to go through life thinking “everything negative that is going on is all my fault”.
Externalizing occurs when a person has the mentality that everything that happens is someone else’s fault, the fault of the system, etc. This type of thinking creates a thought pattern that makes one feel as though the world is against you. How can you even bother striving for positive gains in life when the cards are so clearly stacked against you? This feels horrible and it can make one not attempt any ambitions. It could also create unnecessary enemies if you are always blaming others. This could push friends and family away and create a life of isolation.
If you notice that you tend to be thinking in such patterns, practice mindfulness to thwart such ways of thinking. Integrate other points of view into your mentality. A life with less blame of self or others will likely be more fulfilling to you.
Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Defense mechanisms Vs Coping Strategies

 Defense mechanisms (or coping mechanisms are automatic ways in which we have learned to cope with the disturbing stimuli bombarding us throughout our days. We use these coping mechanisms automatically, without thought. They are often self-soothing, feeling good at the moment but without thought to how it effects you or others. Some of them are benign, harmless – think pacing, playing video games, watching porn, isolating, etc. Though such things are not obviously harmful, in excess it can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle and feeling even worse about yourself. Other self-soothing coping mechanisms can be harmful and toxic to us, leaving us in a worse state than we started off. Such coping mechanisms that are more immediately risky include pulling out one’s hair, cutting, stealing/ kleptomania, risky sexual behaviors, the list goes on and on. You can make a conscious intervention with such automatic mechanisms. Build new habits using your conscious awareness that you are feeling badly. Put together some healthy coping skills/ coping strategies that are healthy and actualizing to you. Activities such as calming breathing exercises, meditating, yoga, physical exercise. Creative endeavors such as art, music, knitting, writing, etc. These kind of activities are healthy and enriching can become more automatic, habitual in the face of stress. They can be your go-to behaviors and can be made automatic with conscious repetition. Find out what your specific go-to coping skills can be (they’re different for everyone) and make a habit of them.
Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does anxiety make you angry?

Are you “uptight” at times? Do you get irritable, irate, frustrated when the stuff hits the fan? You could be suffering from anxiety related anger. This is a common occurrence for anxious people in tough situations. It is part of our “fight or flight” reaction which is a coping mechanism in our primitive DNA. Originally, fighting or fleeing was an important part of survival in dangerous situations. When we get scared or anxious, this mechanism kicks in and it is not surprising to become agitated or angry in the face of fear or anxiety. If you or others notice that you are often getting frustrated and angry, explore coping skills for your anxiety and talk to your therapist about how to work on reducing your anxiety.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germanwings Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz gives people with mental Illness a bad rap

Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot of the ill fated Germanwings flight was no doubt an extremely troubled person. He had suicidal thoughts and impulses, but what’s more, he was homicidal. Homicidal thoughts and impulses are one of many possible symptoms in mental illness. They are also a huge factor in the stigma that mental illness as a whole has on the minds of people.

I want to draw a distinction here: homicidality/ homicidal behavior are symptoms that are distinct from  mental illness as a whole. Most people who have a mental illness do not have Homicidal Impulses or actions. Homicidality or other violent behavior most often does not accompany mental illness. We must draw the distinction as it i unfair that people who have mental illness be pigeon holed by association to this homicidal and suicidal pilot.

It can be normal in the course of one’s illness to have what we call suicidal or homicidal ideations. Many of us have violent thoughts occasionally when stressed, upset by something or someone. If you have a violent or homicidal thought, this does not put you on a course for violence. However, If you have violent or homicidal thoughts frequently, talk with a mental health professional immediately. This could be a result of stress/anxiety or symptoms of a yet undiagnosed mental illness such as PTSD, Major Depression or Bipolar disorder.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Advocating for yourself (vs advocating for yourself x 1000)

Advocating for yourself is a very valuable life skill. Using assertiveness to express what your needs are and you are not shy in anticipating that your needs should likely be met. This is great when it comes to striving to achieve things in life, or seeing that your needs are met in a relationship.

Could it ever backfire? Absolutely. Do you find yourself being alienated after you’ve shouted at someone whom you don’t agree with? After aggressively advocating for yourself, you may realize you’ve hurt the other party by being too aggressive, provocative or angry. By protecting yourself from being alienated, you could wind up alienating the other party.

This is why self advocacy must be tempered with self awareness and mindfulness. While advocating for yourself, introspect; check in with yourself every few moments to reflect on how much aggression you are putting out. Strive for politeness (a.k.a. not losing your temper) in your assertive communication and you will be happy and satisfied not just with the outcome but also with the way you achieved it. If you find yourself having these reactions with little provocation and have trouble controlling it, speak to your therapist or other mental health professional who can help you manage your reactions.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditation

Meditation can be an easy and effective way to reduce anxiety, calm your nerves and improve your mood. It can be achieved in the short term for quick stress reduction. It has been shown that on going, daily meditation can be practiced in the longer term for mood stabilization and lower anxiety levels in your day to day life. Here are the most basic methods of how to practice meditation.

Find a quiet and place free of noise or other distractions. You may choose to close your eyes if there are visual distractions. In this serene space, do not focus on any thought, but instead, focus on a neutral aspect such as your own breathing. If you choose to use your own breathing to focus on, go ahead and begin to notice the quality of your breath, the speed of it, the intensity, virtually any quality of the breath. If thoughts enter your mind (they very well might), allow them to come and go without engaging them. I hope that you find this to be a relaxing and even uplifting experience! Sit still in this quiet space for any length of time ranging from 5 minutes to 35 minutes, or longer if you so choose.

It may sound simple, but to some this may pose a challenge. That is why it is often referred to as the “practice” of meditation. The more you practice, the more effective you become at not attaching or identifying with thoughts that may be tempting to connect with.

Aside | Posted on by | 1 Comment

Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves focusing your attention on specific experience of your existence. Some may draw their attention to observations of the outside or natural world such as sensory perceptions; details we usually ignore. Things like the texture or color of the ground or the sky, the types of patterns all around you, etc. You may also attend to your inner world, taking inventory of sensations in your body, mind, emotions, etc. This is similar to mediation and can go hand in hand with it. Meditating on these sensory perceptions of the inner or outer world can do wonders for alleviating stress, anxiety and fear.

Mindfulness can help take the venom out of fear. The more fear is focused upon, the more power it has over you. So mindfulness can help you loosen fear’s grip on you as there is no longer enough energy for fears and anxiety to take root with. Your energy is being dispersed as your mind is focusing on other things. Then you can focus on other more constructive or enjoyable activities.

More on Mindfullness: http://www.uv.es/carmenrg/material1/art%EDculos/Baer%202003.pdf

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment