Both Sides of Anxiety


Treading frantically

gasping for air while drowning

In a flood of thoughts

http://Haiku-Heights.blogspot.com

People who are highly anxious have brains that want them to survive.  

The brain just doesn’t know they aren’t in danger.

Anxiety creates a hypervigilance – always scanning your environment, your world,  for what could go wrong, what needs attention, what is a threat.  It’s exhausting.  It sets you up for physical, mental and emotional tension.  People who are anxious are also exhausting to be around.  Relationships can be strained, tense, on edge.

Anxious energy that is pervasive is hard to understand if you aren’t the anxious type.  You may have wondered: Why are they making such a “big deal” out of nothing?  Why are they always telling me what to do or how to do it?  Why are they shying away from social interaction, crowded venues?  What’s with the negativity?  Why don’t they just CHILL OUT?

HOWEVER there are extremely high functioning people with anxiety disorders:

  • People who scan their environments make excellent teachers,  – always on the alert for what is working what isn’t, who is working, who isn’t
  • People who are anxious make great athletes —  it can create a competitive edge and it keeps them on their toes (pun intended).  The extreme exercise helps burn off the anxious edge.  Exercise makes them feel better and they can become compulsive about it which makes them better athletes . . .
  • People who are anxious are often tidy and neat.  If their external environment is as cluttered as their internal environment it makes them more anxious.
  • People who are anxious are good planners.  They don’t like surprises which throws their anxiety higher.
  • Hypervigilant people can excel at detail work since they don’t miss much.

There’s always a spectrum, a continuum of any condition.  Anxiety can range from mild to overwhelming, from high functioning to disabling disorders.  The idea here is not to paint everything or everyone with a broad stroke.   The hypervigilance which can drive you crazy can also sustain you in many facets of life.

In addition to doing the breath work and saying “I’m safe” as I talked about in the post     http://wp.me/pLGhj-2LC

exercise is also at the top of the list.  You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to benefit.  Just do brisk walking every day for a total of 29 minutes.

Here’s a short article from the Mayo Clinic:

“How does exercise help depression and anxiety?

Exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

Exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms.

What kind of exercise is best?

The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym. But a wide range of activities that boost your activity level help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can gardening, washing your car, or strolling around the block and other less intense activities. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood.”

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043

Depressed, Anxious? You’re Not Crazy & sneaking in a Judaiku

Judy's visual journal entry

My favorite antidote for anxiety was the topic of yesterday’s post.  Today I want to briefly address depression since anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.

Acute, situational depression is the brain’s way of helping us not blow our lid or slit our throats.  When we’re depressed we don’t have the highs or the lows – everything is “flat”.  It’s when the depression lasts longer than the situation warrants and becomes chronic that something needs to be done.

To add insult to injury, clients I see with depression and anxiety  experience trouble with sleep:  Falling asleep ; Staying asleep; Never getting restorative rest.

This is important!

Research findings suggest that there is a neurochemical link between depression, anxiety, and stress.  This has nothing to do with psychology or character or any psychiatric disorder.  This is about disturbances in neurochemical functioning in the brain.  You’re not crazy, not psychological damaged or fragile.  Your neurochemistry is out of wack if you are depressed and/or anxious.

Many of the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression overlap quite a bit. Depression can lead to anxiety and conversely, anxiety can lead to depression. So we’re talking about a very tight relationship here in terms of diagnosis.

When I was first licensed in 1986 anxiety was treated with different medication than depression.  Today many, if not most, people with anxiety are treated and respond very well to anti-depressant medication.

On Call Plus
ABC News Photo Illustration
NOW THE GOOD NEWS!

Research has shown that the best ways of breaking the depressive cycle are:  1.  EXERCISE, 2. COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY, 3.  MEDICATION

IN THAT ORDER!

The good news is you can do the first two on your own, no Rx and the only side effects are feeling better.

    • Now sneaking in my Haiku for today: Prompt – “hidden”

    Depression visits

Hidden depths, silent despair

Uninvited guest

The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety.

(This is a repost, especially for my friends who look outside their windows and do not see what I see)

If I  watched the news all day and evening I would KNOW that the world is in its last days:  Earthquakes, tornadoes, nuclear reactor melt-downs, flooding, war, starvation, killing,  financial collapse, drought, fires . . . EVERYWHERE.

I look out the window, past the TV.  It’s sunny, warm and lovely.  My brain, however, has already been cued by the words, thoughts and images of death, dying and devastation.  My brain as a response has released the neurochemistry of anxiety into the cells of my body.  And I FEEL the anxiety in every fiber of my being.

Chronically Running for Our Life

All our brains chronically perceive danger with any chronic emotional or physical condition.  The body being continually under siege, in pain, sends signals to the brain which get us ready to flee or fight off our enemy.  Muscle tension is needed for running like hell or slugging it out.  Now’s not the time to relax if you want to live.

The opposite of DANGER is SAFETY.

Here’s one of the very best mind-body techniques, and easiest, way to let your brain practice calm.   Best of all it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go. I have taught this hundreds, maybe thousands, of times and it absolutely works . . .when you do it.

Chronically Safe Signal:

1. Take a deep breath through your nose.
2. Hold the breath for just a moment
3. As you release the breath, through your nose, very gently, say silently: “I’m safe.” (Be kind to your brain.  It’s just trying to keep you from being eaten alive)

Sound too simple!?

Our brains are relatively simple in that brains can not tell the difference between when we are actually in danger (anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) or when we perceive danger through thoughts or other cues.

Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of. Your brain will signal “danger” “danger” and flood you with the neurochemistry of fear. Watch a sad movie and your brain will flood you with the neurochemistry of sadness and, if you are like me, sob like a baby.
Soooooooooo, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop the neurochemistry of fear and anxiety. It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutes or so for theneurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells.  No matter how you FEEL keep giving your brain the “I’m Safe” cue.

Here’s the Key

Yoga, meditation, mindfulness prayer, listening to relaxation recordings all help.  However, to break into a CHRONIC cycle we need to chronically signal our brains to stop sending the neurochemistry of the stress response to our bodies. Let your brain know that no one is throwing grenades at you, animals are not trying to eat you alive, you are not in danger.  And the easiest way is to . . .

 . . . CHRONICALLY “Sprinkle” the Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening. It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this. A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.

You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose — except your stress response.

In the midst of peace

Hypnotic danger signals

 My companion, fear

ME a Stress Case? . . . I Don’t Think So. . . This Anxiety Reduction Technique is for YOU

Self Reflection

I’m not a worrier by nature, I’m not anxiety riddenI teach OTHERS how to relax, how to reduce THEIR tension.

Getting my hair done yesterday – yes, I still have my purple streaksI had nothing better to do than focus on me.  That’s what my hairdresser was doing so I figured I could too.

Whoa! My entire body was tense.

I relaxed my muscles. They tensed up againI relaxed again.  Muscles from head to toe tensed up again as if I were a trained athlete who had practiced over and over until my muscle memory was so strong practice was no longer needed.

Flashing before my eyes was every therapy session I’ve ever had with anyone who had anxiety, PTSD, was a caretaker, had a sick loved one, experienced loss of any kind, anticipated loss, was in pain or had a CHRONIC CONDITION. . . .

I’ve explained “it” so many times that like a well-trained athlete my mind no longer has to think.  I automatically recognize the stress response in others (others being the operant word).

Chronically Running for Our Life

I know that your brain (NOT MINE OF COURSE) chronically perceives danger with any chronic emotional or physical condition.  The body being continually under siege, in pain, sends signals to the brain which get us ready to flee or fight off our enemy.  Muscle tension is needed for running like hell or slugging it out.  Now’s not the time to relax if you want to live.

The opposite of DANGER is SAFETY.

Here’s one of the very best mind-body techniques, and easiest, way to let your brain practice calm.   Best of all it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go. I have taught this hundreds, maybe thousands, of times and it absolutely works (I of course don’t need to do it.  After all I teach it).

Chronically Safe Signal:

1. Take a deep breath through your nose.
2. Hold the breath for just a moment
3. As you release the breath, through your nose, very gently, say silently: “Thank you brain, I’m safe.” (Be kind to your brain.  It’s just trying to keep you from being eaten alive)

Sound too simple!?

Our brains are relatively simple in that brains can not tell the difference between when we are actually in danger (anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) or when we perceive danger through thoughts or other cues.

Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of. Your brain will signal “danger! danger!” and flood your cells with the neurochemistry of fear. Watch a sad movie and your brain will flood you with the neurochemistry of sadness and, if you are like me, sob like a baby.
Soooooooooo, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop the neurochemistry of fear and anxiety. It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutes or so for the neurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells.  No matter how you FEEL keep giving your brain the “I’m Safe” cue.

Here’s the Key

Yoga, meditation, mindfulness prayer, listening to relaxation recordings all help.  However, to break into a CHRONIC cycle you need to chronically signal your brain to stop sending the neurochemistry of the stress response to your body. Let your brain know that no one is throwing grenades at you, animals are not trying to eat you alive, you are not in danger.

CHRONICALLY “Sprinkle” the Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening. It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this. A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.

You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose — except your stress response!

Self Realization

I was going to name this post “Teachers Teach What they Need to Learn” but I figured out that I had a legitimate reason to be stressed while my hair was getting done because

my hair dresser had a scissors in one hand

and with the other hand pointed a hair dryer to my head.

FREE Technique to Reduce Anxiety & Stress Response

I just posted a technique that is great for reducing anxiety on someone elses blog.  It occurred to me, why not my own BLOG!  So for those of you who suffer from anxiety here’s a simple technique that is great.  And it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go:

Signal Breath:
1.  Take a deep breath through your nose.
2.  Hold the breath for just a moment
3.  As you release it gently through your nose relax in any way you choose
4.  As you relax say silently:  ‘Thank you brain, I’m safe.”

Sound too simple!?  Our brains are relatively simple in that brains can not tell the difference between when we are actually in danger (anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) and when we perceive danger through thoughts or other cues.  Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of. Your brain will register “danger!” and flood your cells with the neurochemistry of fear/anxiety.  Watch a sad movie and your brain will flood you with sadness and if you are like me, you’ll sob like a baby.

Soooooooooo, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop the neurochemistry related to fear and anxiety.  It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutes or so for then neurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells. 

5. “Sprinkle” the Signal Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening.  It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this.  A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.  

You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose — except your anxiety!