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Some Millennials And Older Generations Are ‘Kidulting.’ Maybe You Should, Too.

The mental health benefits of play and nostalgia are vastly underrated.

Tapping into nostalgia ― especially if you share it with others ― can be a powerful mental health booster.

At the height of the pandemic, I kidulted plenty.

To kidult ― I know it sounds obnoxious, but bear with me ― is to recreate childhood memories by partaking in activities generally considered for children.

In my case, I clocked in more hours of “Animal Crossing” than I care to admit (mostly because my island still looks crap). I went down a rabbit hole of Polly Pocket content on Instagram, I dabbled in watercoloring (or rather, I bought a watercoloring set and used it once). I started playing “The Sims,” basically in villain mode (The goal: Steal Mortimer Goth and the Goth family mansion from Bella Goth. The result: A depressed Mortimer Goth moping around my home, too broken over his divorce to care about my homewrecking self.)

While I never took the plunge and bought a Sims expansion pack or Polly Pockets on eBay for old time’s sake, there are plenty of millennials (and members of older generations, too) who have spent quite a bit on their kidulting activity of choice.

As Bloomberg recently reported, kidult shoppers have helped U.S. toy sales surge 37% over two years to $28.6 billion in 2021, according to data tracker NPD Group. Toy executives and insiders first attributed the spike to exhausted parents buying their kids toys to keep them distracted during lockdown, but a survey last year from the U.S. industry’s Toy Association found that 58% of adult respondents bought toys and games for themselves.

Some examples of popular nostalgia-pegged kidulting?

  • McDonald selling out of their limited-edition adult Happy Meals that came with a collectible toy
  • TikTok influencers dressing up in Y2K fashions and pretending they’re going out in the early ’00s
  • Adult kickball leagues
  • The huge popularity of Pokémon Go a few years ago
  • Disney adults
  • Anyone who’s overly invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

Before you start tearing into child-free millennials with disposable incomes, older generations have kidulted, too. Jaabo, who runs the YouTube channel Train Tsar Fun, always loved Legos. Now at 54, he finally has the means to make his wildest little-brick dreams come true.

“I have over 6,000 sets now. The most I’ve spent for a single set is $850 for the LEGO Grand Carousel,” Jaabo, who lives in northwest Georgia, told HuffPost.

“I get to do the things I could only imagine doing as a kid,” he said. “Building process is relaxing and satisfying, but the memories are better.”

Debbie Zelasny, a Gen Xer who goes by @TheJerseyMomma on social media, doesn’t restrict her toy collection to just one thing: She collects everything from Funko POP! figurines and blind bags to cute ’80s and ’90s relics (anything from Sanrio, LEGO, Lisa Frank, Calico Critters) and stickers. Pretty much anything that screams “that’s my childhood,” she’ll buy it.

“My sister will text me photos of 1970s Battlestar Galactica figures from garage sales or estate sales and I’ll reply, ’YES, get me those!” she told HuffPost.

Does she feel guilt over her purchases? Sometimes, but then her happiness overrides it. “I think it is important to keep that sense of magic and excitement over fun things that you just love for no reason other than pure happiness,” she said.

For many grown-ups, play got them out of the pandemic.

“Kidulting has been the source of a whole new community for me online recently. It helps me to feel less isolated in our current landscape of uncertainty and distress,” said Cole Chickering, a YouTuber who collects vintage ’90s and 2000s print media like Nickelodeon Magazine and flips through it, page by page, with his followers. (It’s incredibly charming!)

“My viewers and I have so many nostalgic childhood experiences, and it feels good to share those stories and feel that connection,” Chickering told HuffPost. “Physical paper magazines and catalogs are frozen in time, so they serve as an excellent portal back to a simpler life.”

Tapping into nostalgia the way Chickering does ― especially if you share it with others ― can be a powerful mental health booster.

Though nostalgia was once cast in a negative light ― in 1688, Johannes Hoffer, the Swiss doctor who coined the feeling, called it a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” ― today’s researchers are looking at the bright side. According to a study published in April 2021 in the journal Emotion, nostalgia is a highly social emotion that can bolster our feelings of connectedness with others.

Even getting nostalgic on your own has feel-good benefits; a study published in the same journal in 2016 found that nostalgic people tend to have a healthier sense of self-continuity ― meaning a sense of connection between one’s past and one’s present. (Which is not to say that getting wistful about that past can’t be a little depressing; nostalgia is bittersweet, of course.)

“Overall, I think nostalgia is just comforting,” said Nicole Booz, the founder of GenTwenty.com and author of “The Kidult Handbook.”

“Adults who reminisce [in] the nostalgia of childhood are looking back to a time in their lives where they felt secure, when there was an entire lifetime of possibilities in front of them.”

“Play can foster creative benefits of imagination,
fantasy, and the temporary suspension of the limits of reality.”

– KRYSTINE BATCHO, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY
AT LE MOYNE COLLEGE IN SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

 

slot cars

Factor nostalgia in with play and you’re bound to feel better about anything.

“When we engage in pure playfulness, the kind of activities that whisks away time and worry, that’s done solely for sheer enjoyment and fun, the frontal cortex of our brains literally burst into fireworks,” said Meredith Sinclair, a “Today” show contributor and author of “Well Played, The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit.”

Serotonin levels go off “giving us a feeling of well-being and contentment while creating a fertile soil for creativity, art, invention, and cognitive flexibility,” Sinclair wrote in an email. “We always come away feeling better for taking the time to play.”

Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York and the author of the “Longing for Nostalgia” blog on Psychology Today, thinks more adults should seek out play when they’re feeling stressed or anxious.

“At first, play might serve as an escape from the burdens of responsibilities, disappointments, or worries but given a chance, play can also revive feelings of awe as ordinary things are seen through curious eyes from a new perspective,” she wrote in an email. “Play can foster creative benefits of imagination, fantasy, and the temporary suspension of the limits of reality.”

More adults should seek out play when they’re feeling stressed or anxious, experts say.

Pretending there are no limits or boundaries can be liberating and broaden our sense of what’s possible, Batcho added.

“Putting our mental ‘editor’ on pause for a bit can allow innovative ideas to surface and unexpected options or solutions to problems can come to mind,” she said.

Now that we’ve got you all in on play ― or halfway in if you’re being curmudgeonly and grown-up about it ― play scholars share a few ways to tap into your inner kid below.

Allow yourself to get bored.

Jeff Harry, an international speaker who uses positive psychology and play to help teams and organizations build better workspaces, considers boredom the pivotal starter ingredient for play.

Get good and bored, he said, like as bored as you were during the crazy-making height of lockdown.

“That’s one of the best ways to cultivate your inner child and to hear what your inner child has to say,” he said. “And when your inner child starts telling you all these crazy ideas ― like why don’t why don’t you start a podcast, why don’t you start baking sough-dough bread, why don’t you start a TikTok account ― listen.”

By the way, Harry loves TikTok and looks at it as a digital third space for productivity-free fun: “It’s like a playground for a lot of people who didn’t have the opportunity or space to play before.”

Involve your friends and family.

The experts agreed: Play is considerably better with friends. Round up the people in your life who share mutual hobbies and make playtime a collaborative effort, Batcho said.

“Inviting others to play can enhance the pleasant feelings of youth,” she said.

If you have kids, you have an obvious leg up with play, Batcho said. But regardless of what age groups you’re working with, games are an obvious choice for play.

“You can do an adult scavenger hunt, make homemade Dunkaroos, make playdough or pottery together, or do something like play frisbee golf,” Booz said. “These are activities that are reminiscent of childhood and bring out the best in all of us.”

Or it could be something more unconventional and slightly more adult: During the shelter-at-home stage of the pandemic, I had a friend who hosted boozy Zoom read-throughs of bad movie scripts.

“Inviting others to play can enhance the pleasant feelings of youth,” said Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.

Ask your friends when they’ve seen you most playful and happy.

Not really sure what your “play” of choice is? Call three or more of your closest friends and ask them to indulge you in this “play experiment” that Harry created. Ask them these two questions:

1. What value do I bring to your life?

2. When have you seen me most joyful, alive and playful?

With the value question, you’re asking them what you bring to their lives and what you may be good at. The second, specifically on play, will help you explore who you are in your peak state and what activities you’re doing when you’re in a joyful state, Harry said.

“See what patterns emerge, as they may help you discover a new way for you to play based on capturing the essence of what you used to do in the past,” he said.

Grant yourself permission to play.

If you’re a play agnostic, try to acknowledge that you’re doing something really good for yourself when you play.

“You have to push aside your ego, self-consciousness, and adult responsibilities, let go and embark on a fun-finding mission,” Sinclair said.

Kidulting is not about being childish or immature or time-wasting, Booz said: “It’s about re-embracing the positive parts of childhood as adults so that we can practice healthy escapism and tap into things we truly, deeply love.”

By Brittany Wong     Nov 22, 2022

source: Huffpost

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I found it interesting to come across the article above

after recently taking up slot cars as a new hobby 


slot cars

🙂
Pete Szekely YouTube Videos ~


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Children ages 8 and up should be screened for anxiety, experts say.

Here’s what parents need to know.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that children ages 8 to 18 should be screened for anxiety disorder by their primary care physician even if they are not showing signs or symptoms of anxiety. This is the first time the task force has made any recommendation on anxiety screenings, and it speaks to the severity of the mental health crisis already ravaging children and teens in the U.S.

The task force is made up of a volunteer panel of experts in preventive medicine and doesn’t have any regulatory authority, but Its recommendations can influence standards of care in the U.S.

Why screen children for anxiety disorder?

Dr. Lori Pbert, a clinical psychologist and member of the task force, told Yahoo News that pediatric anxiety was nominated as a priority back in 2018. So while COVID-19 heightened the need for addressing mental health, the task force had started working on its recommendation before the pandemic.

“This has been an increasing problem for many, many years, even prior to COVID,” Pbert said of anxiety in adolescents. “But we also know that the COVID pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on our children and teens’ mental health.”

Pbert says there wasn’t enough evidence to either support or recommend against screening children under 8, so the task force has called for more research regarding that age group.

She reiterated that experiencing some anxiety is normal and healthy, but by screening for anxiety disorders the task force hopes to weed out instances in which it affects the child’s functioning and well-being.

“Many children and teens have fears and worries and feel anxious from time to time,” she said. “When we’re screening for anxiety disorders, we’re really looking for excessive fear or worry that interferes with normal daily activities at home, at school, with friends and with family.”

Nearly 1 in 10 children and teens were diagnosed with anxiety from 2016 to 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the U.S.

“Anxiety disorder is the most common disorder in child psychiatry. More than ADHD, more than anything,” Boris Birmaher, a professor of psychiatry with the University of Pittsburgh, who is not a member of the task force, told Yahoo News.

The median age for developing an anxiety disorder is about 11 years old, though some children and teens may keep their worries and fears to themselves or may present with symptoms sometimes not associated with anxiety disorder, like irritability and anger. This makes experts concerned that without screening, many instances of anxiety disorder in children are currently going unnoticed.

“Sometimes they are not detected, and the child will suffer,” Birmaher said. “And these kids are at high risk to develop depression, and they’re at high risk to develop substance abuse when they’re teenagers.”

“We do know that there’s a real delay in the initiation of treatment for anxiety disorders — up to 23 years,” Pbert explained. “And so this screening recommendation is really hoping to be able to catch children, teens and adolescents early so that they don’t have to be suffering for so many years into their adulthood.”

sad teen child depression anxiety

How do doctors screen children for anxiety disorder?

The task force didn’t recommend any one method for anxiety screening, but the process is often done using a questionnaire. The two most commonly used questionnaires for adolescents are called SCARED, or Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders, and SPIN, or Social Phobia Inventory. Both have been found to be accurate in identifying young people both with and without anxiety.

SCARED is a more general screening tool that looks for signs of any anxiety disorders, including symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders, separation anxiety, social anxiety, panic and school avoidance. This screener has two versions — one asking questions to parents about their child, and the other asking the same questions to the child directly.

“We know that you get kind of different reports from the child versus the parents. We’ve seen that child reports tend to yield higher SCARED scores than parent reports,” Pbert said. “So it’s important to note that would-be symptoms could be missed if we don’t make sure that we’re getting both the child’s and parents’ perspectives on SCARED.”

The questions ask about any debilitating symptoms, such as whether the child experiences intense worry about bad things happening; sudden fear that’s accompanied by physical symptoms like a pounding heart, difficulty breathing or feeling dizzy, shaky or sweaty; or whether they’re afraid of being away from a parent or of losing important people in their life.

SPIN specifically looks for evidence of social anxiety and is completed by the child only. It asks whether they avoid doing things or speaking to people for fear of embarrassment; whether they’re scared of social events; or whether they experience somatic symptoms like heart palpitations when around people.

Birmaher says these questionnaires can usually be answered in the waiting room and take less than 10 minutes to complete. Afterward, the parents and child go over their responses with the pediatric practitioner and see if there are any concerns.

Sometimes even a high SCARED or SPIN score can be a false alarm, so Pbert and Birmaher say it’s important to remember that the screening is only a first step.

“A screening test alone is not sufficient to diagnose anxiety,” Pbert said. “If your child or teen screens positive, a structured clinical interview is needed in order to make a diagnosis.”

If your child is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, what’s next?

Pbert and Birmaher both emphasize that anxiety disorders are treatable conditions, and that doctors and parents, together with the child, can determine which course of action may be best if a diagnosis is made. Usually that involves cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or medication, and sometimes a combination of the two.

Birmaher says the medications often used for anxiety in children are the same ones used for depression and that studies show they are effective in children as young as 7 or 8 with minimal, if any, side effects.

CBT can improve and potentially resolve anxiety in children and adolescents, and Birmaher notes that it usually takes 12 to 15 sessions.

“It’s not forever,” he said of CBT. “It’s like the coach teaching you the tricks for how to manage anxiety and how to prevent anxiety. The therapists are like the coach, the parents are like the coach’s assistants, and [the child] is the player. And you have to practice. Because if you don’t practice, you don’t learn.”

Rebecca Corey·Writer and Reporter       November 10, 2022

source: news.yahoo.com


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Do You Get More Anxious Or Sad In The Fall? There’s A Reason For That.

You’re not alone if you don’t welcome the return of pumpkin spice and autumn foliage. Here’s why the season change affects your mental health.

When we talk about seasonal depression, the short, frosty days of winter probably come to mind. After all, the bulk of people who experience seasonal mood changes feel the most stress and anxiety during the thick of winter.

But seasonal affective disorder can happen at any time, in any season. And right now, as we transition away from summer and settle into our new fall routines, many people will notice that they’re feeling a bit more anxious or melancholy than they did a month ago.

“This time of year, when the days become shorter, you can already start to develop some of the symptoms of the seasonal pattern of depression — even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a medical diagnosis,” Dr. Eric Golden, a psychiatrist at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Western Psychiatric Hospital, told HuffPost.

Here’s why fall can cause so much anxiety or sadness

There are multiple reasons as to why the change in seasons affects our mood. For one, our schedules tend to ramp up in the fall and with that comes new stressors and responsibilities that can impact our well-being.

The days are also getting shorter and we’re less exposed to sunlight. According to Dr. Paul Desan, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, the brain is pretty sensitive to the light-dark cycle.

Scientists are still learning about all the ways in which daylight impacts the neurotransmitters in our brain that influence how we feel, but growing evidence suggests that the change in seasons can trigger chemical changes in the brain. We know, for example, that lower levels of daylight are associated with lower levels of serotonin — the neurotransmitter that’s associated with depression and mood regulation, Golden said.

Lastly, some people’s brains may start preparing for the fact that winter is approaching. If they experience seasonal depression or anxiety in past years, they may get anxious that the hardest time of year for them is right around the corner, Desan explained.

pumpkin

Seasonal mood changes are a spectrum. According to Desan, data has shown that most people feel better in the summer than the winter, but the symptoms can really vary in terms of severity. Some may only experience milder symptoms, like less energy, while others will develop major depressive disorder.

Much of this is influenced by a mix of risk factors, such as your underlying health, family history, where you live, along with your age and gender. The main takeaway, however, is that most people feel worse in the winter and better in the summer, Desan said.

Getting as much sunlight as possible can help improve mood-related symptoms.

How to cope with the seasonal stress

Golden said you don’t have to wait until the symptoms are severe to start coping with seasonal mood changes. Even mild symptoms, when unmanaged, can impair your ability to get through your day as smoothly as you’d like.

The first step is to check in with yourself and take note of any mood changes, such as a dip in your energy levels or mindset. It can also be helpful to set and stick with a routine. Make a point to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Because light has such a profound impact on our brain, it’s crucial to get some light exposure every day. You could do this with natural light — by penciling in some outside time — or with bright light therapy. If you go the light therapy route, Desan said you’ll want a medical grade light device that emits 10,000 locks (you can find some of his suggestions here).

To reap the full benefits, you’ll want to sit in front of the light for about 30 minutes every day, ideally first thing in the morning. “Light is more powerful the earlier in the morning you’re exposed to it,” Desan said. And though some people will notice improvements within a week, it can take about a month of light therapy to start feeling better.

Aside from that, you’ll want to stick with all the activities proven to keep us feeling good. Everything you do to improve your well-being — regularly exercising, socializing and eating a well-balanced diet — affects how we feel. If these strategies don’t help or if your condition deteriorates, reach out to a doctor to discuss your symptoms and other forms of treatment, like psychotherapy and medication.

Just because seasonal mood changes are normal, that doesn’t mean struggling with them has to be. “It’s important to take a preventive and proactive approach to staying on top of it,” Golden said.

By Julia Ries          Oct 12, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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Negative Thinking Linked To Dementia In Later Life, But You Can Learn To Be More Positive

Are you a pessimist by nature, a “glass half empty” sort of person? That’s not good for your brain.

A new study found that repetitive negative thinking in later life was linked to cognitive decline and greater deposits of two harmful proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

“We propose that repetitive negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia,” said lead author Dr. Natalie Marchant, a psychologist and senior research fellow in the department of mental health at University College London, in a statement.

Negative thinking behaviors such as rumination about the past and worry about the future were measured in over 350 people over the age of 55 over a two-year period. About a third of the participants also underwent a PET (positron emission tomography) brain scan to measure deposits of tau and beta amyloid, two proteins which cause Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.

The scans showed that people who spent more time thinking negatively had more tau and beta amyloid buildup, worse memory and greater cognitive decline over a four-year period compared to people who were not pessimists.

The study also tested for levels of anxiety and depression and found greater cognitive decline in depressed and anxious people, which echos prior research.

But deposits of tau and amyloid did not increase in the already depressed and anxious people, leading researchers to suspect repeated negative thinking may be the main reason why depression and anxiety contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Taken alongside other studies, which link depression and anxiety with dementia risk, we expect that chronic negative thinking patterns over a long period of time could increase the risk of dementia,” Marchant said.

“This is the first study showing a biological relationship between repetitive negative thinking and Alzheimer’s pathology, and gives physicians a more precise way to assess risk and offer more personally-tailored interventions,” said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at NYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

“Many people at risk are unaware about the specific negative impact of worry and rumination directly on the brain,” said Isaacson, who is also a trustee of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, which funds research to better understand and alleviate age-related cognitive decline.

“This study is important and will change the way I care for my patients at risk.”

smile

More study needed

It is “important to point out that this isn’t saying a short-term period of negative thinking will cause Alzheimer’s disease,” said Fiona Carragher, who is chief policy and research officer at the Alzheimer’s Society in London. “We need further investigation to understand this better.”

“Most of the people in the study were already identified as being at higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so we would need to see if these results are echoed within the general population,” she said, “and if repeated negative thinking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease itself.”

The researchers suggest that mental training practices such as meditation might help promoting positive thinking while reducing negative thoughts, and they plan future studies to test their hypothesis.

“Our thoughts can have a biological impact on our physical health, which might be positive or negative, said coauthor Dr. Gael Chételat of Inserm/ Université de Caen-Normandie.

“Looking after your mental health is important, and it should be a major public health priority, as it’s not only important for people’s health and well-being in the short term, but it could also impact your eventual risk of dementia,” Chételat said.

Looking on the bright side

Previous research supports their hypothesis. People who look at life from a positive perspective have a much better shot at avoiding death from any type of cardiovascular risk than pessimistic people, according to a 2019 study. In fact, the more positive the person, the greater the protection from heart attacks, stroke and any cause of death.

It’s not just your heart that’s protected by a positive outlook. Prior research has found a direct link between optimism and other positive health attributes, such as healthier diet and exercise behaviors, a stronger immune system and better lung function, among others.

That’s probably because optimists tend to have better health habits, said cardiologist Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who studies optimism’s health impacts. They’re more likely to exercise, have better diets and are less likely to smoke.

“Optimists also tend to have better coping skills and are better problem-solvers,” Rozanski told CNN in a prior interview. “They are better at what we call proactive coping, or anticipating problems and then proactively taking steps to fix them.”

Train to be an optimist

You can tell where you stand on the glass half-full or empty concept by answering a series of statements called the “life orientation test.”

The test includes statements such as, “I’m a believer in the idea that ‘every cloud has a silver lining,'” and, “If something can go wrong for me, it will.” You rate the statements on a scale from highly agree to highly disagree, and the results can be added up to determine your level of optimism or pessimism.

Prior research has shown it’s possible to “train the brain” to be more optimistic, sort of like training a muscle. Using direct measures of brain function and structure, one study found it only took 30 minutes a day of meditation practice over the course of two weeks to produce a measurable change in the brain.

One of the most effective ways to increase optimism, according to a meta-analysis of existing studies, is called the “Best Possible Self” method, where you imagine or journal about yourself in a future in which you have achieved all your life goals and all of your problems have been resolved.

Another technique is to practice gratefulness. Just taking a few minutes each day to write down what makes you thankful can improve your outlook on life. And while you’re at it, list the positive experiences you had that day, which can also raise your optimism.

“And then finally, we know that cognitive behavioral therapies are very effective treatments for depression; pessimism is on the road toward depression,” Rozanski said.

“You can apply the same principles as we do for depression, such as reframing. You teach there is an alternative way to think or reframe negative thoughts, and you can make great progress with a pessimist that way.”

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN     Sun June 7, 2020

source: www.cnn.com

Want to live longer? Be an optimist, study says


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How To Ease Some Of The Vicarious Trauma You May Be Feeling Right Now

It’s normal to feel anxious as you follow what’s unfolding in Ukraine. Here’s how to stay informed while protecting your mental health.

Thanks to social media, news reports and violent images that bombard us at all hours, we often experience what experts call vicarious trauma when a horrific event occurs ― like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which as of Thursday morning had reportedly resulted in at least 40 deaths. It’s in our physiological nature as human beings to feel some amount of empathy and sorrow for others dealing with a traumatic event. Even though we’re not physically present, we still feel the mental health effects of what’s going on.

This is applicable to any grim situation. An impending war, a relentless virus, a devastating mass shooting ― you don’t have to be immersed in the crisis to be affected by it. If you are dealing with feelings of unrest, anxiety or doom right now, know that it’s completely normal. And while you may not be able to abate it entirely, there are ways to make it more manageable.

Here’s some advice on how to handle the emotions associated with vicarious trauma right now:

Follow trusted sources.

Disinformation spreads like wildfire during times of crisis. Make sure you’re following credible sources and engaging with confirmed reports, tweets and other content. (And remember that just because a Twitter account is verified doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.) If possible, try to find multiple sources confirming the same information before you share or even necessarily believe a report. Spreading and buying into inaccurate stories, photos and videos only contributes to your own panic and anxiety, and the panic and anxiety of others.

Set a few boundaries to prevent excessive doomscrolling.

It’s unrealistic to suggest logging off entirely, but it’s vital to set some boundaries when it comes to social media. Stay informed, then give your brain a break.

For example, try setting aside a block of time to check in on the news. If you find yourself reaching for your phone at night when you can’t sleep, try directing your attention to a lighter part of the internet instead of scrolling through headlines.

“Social media is a gift and a curse, but I’ve begun using it to find someone or something new,” Racine Henry, a therapist and owner of Sankofa Marriage and Family Therapy in New York, told me in December. “I limit myself to the explore page of either Instagram or Twitter and click around until something piques my interest. Or I watch random videos on Facebook of people making an extravagant cake or applying a complicated makeup look. I will never do any of the things I watch, but it’s entertaining and there are endless videos available.”

Turn to mental health experts on social media.

During tumultuous times, I personally find it soothing to read quotes and hear takes from mental health professionals, whether on Twitter, Instagram or even TikTok.

There are tons of great therapists who offer soothing words of wisdom on social media (here are a few of my favorite follows). Whatever they post online shouldn’t be taken as direct mental health advice, but it can serve as a calming voice when your brain is otherwise racing.

Try to keep a normal routine.

Speaking of scrolling late into the night, do everything within your power to stick to your normal schedule. That includes bedtimes, wake times, working if you’re able to handle it, and any other regular aspects of your routine.

When tragic events happen, “we feel a loss of control in our lives and everything going on around us,” Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, previously told me. “The more we can stick to our normal routines, the more our brains and our bodies feel like we’re back in control.”

It can be hard to shake the emotions that arise when following the news.

Move your body in some way.

Our emotions need a physical outlet. To relieve some of that anxiety and tension, try gently moving your body. This could mean going for a walk, doing some light stretching, taking a home boxing class, or whatever it is that helps you feel good. The idea is less about exercise per se and more about finding a tangible way to get out your feelings. And speaking of which…

Cry if you need to.

It’s not frivolous to feel affected by what’s happening in the world right now. Suppressing anything you might be feeling only contributes to poor mental health. Experts emphasize that it’s vital to acknowledge how you’re feeling, instead of dismissing it in the hopes of gaining some sense of ease. That might include crying (and research shows that crying can be a therapeutic release).

Be mindful of your other coping mechanisms.

I’ve certainly defaulted to grabbing drinks with friends in the midst of a stressful situation or pouring a glass of wine as I park myself in front of the TV. In moderation, that’s a normal part of our culture as long as you’re not living with a substance use issue. But you should definitely be aware of these habits and be mindful of when they might turn into something more insidious.

If you’re turning to alcohol or other unhealthy coping mechanisms as a crutch, you should reach out to a professional or someone who can help you process what’s happening in a healthier way. Experts stress that these behaviors often worsen your mental health if they turn into a reliance.

Reach out for extra support.

This could be to your therapist, your loved ones, your co-workers or anyone you trust when it comes to sharing your feelings. Support systems are crucial during periods of unrest and trauma.

“When we are distressed by something, the more we talk about it, the better off we are going to be,” Reidenberg previously advised. “There’s only so much ‘yuck’ we can handle before it begins to come out in unhealthy ways … so if you are feeling distress, say so.”

Pay attention to how you feel and behave in the coming days. If you notice you’re withdrawing from others, not keeping up with a standard routine, or feeling intense emotions that make it difficult to function, it’s time to seek professional mental health advice. (The same applies if you notice this happening with loved ones.) This type of reaction is a completely normal response to what’s going on in the world; a therapist can give you the tools to make it more manageable.

By Lindsay Holmes   02/24/2022 

Source: Huffington Post

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 As Russia Invades Ukraine,
Tips to Manage ‘Headline Anxiety’

By Damian McNamara, MA

Turn to any news channel, news site, or social media platform, and you’re bound to see continuous updates on the situation in Ukraine, the individual and public health toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing political and racial divisiveness in the United States, and more.

So how can someone who wants to keep up on developments protect themselves from stress, anxiety, and dysfunction when such negative news seems to be everywhere?

Today’s news will induce even more anxiety than usual. The sight of plants & gentle colour gradation alleviates stress. 15 mins walking in a green space dials down blood pressure, pulse rate, stress hormone levels (cortisol) & lifts mood but if that’s tricky my photos may help. pic.twitter.com/3ktiVe4APB

— Emma Mitchell 💙 (@silverpebble) February 24, 2022

“I think everyone’s experiencing some degree of anxiety about what’s happening in the world,” says Michael Ziffra, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago.

It’s a matter of severity; being anxious is a normal human reaction, he says. But watching the news becomes a problem if it “makes it hard for you to do what you need to do and just sort of enjoy life.”

Different people will react differently, but in general, “the sign that it’s getting a bit too much is if you cannot stop or pull yourself away from it,” he says.

It also can be a problem if someone spends a lot of time obsessing or ruminating about negative news while off screen, to the point that it disrupts their work or home life, Ziffra says.

When Stressors Stack Up

A cumulative effect is also possible when negative news updates come close together.

“Clearly, what we’re experiencing right now is unprecedented — all this happening at once — prolonged pandemic, the political turmoil, the war, climate change,” Ziffra says.

Long-term exposure to stressors generally worsens anxiety, he says.

Although the effects of chronic stress vary from person to person, many have feelings of depression, anxiousness, sleep disruption, and fatigue.

Uncertainty Can Up the Anxiety

A stressful event generally has a beginning and end, which can help people manage their reactions to it. In contrast, some of the current stressful situations carry more uncertainty.

“Look at what’s going on in the world right now. We still don’t know how things are going to play out with the pandemic or with the Russia and Ukraine conflict,” Ziffra says.

I stopped watching the news after Jan 6 bc the fixation was so unhealthy. For the first time ever something really snapped and I said you know what, I can’t do this to my anxiety anymore.

— Angela (@TheKitchenista) February 24, 2022

If someone has a relative or friends in Ukraine, keeping up on developments is normal, he says. But “people need to be mindful of the fact that they’re going to be very sensitive to the latest developments.”

Avoid looking at photos or watching videos coming out of Ukraine, he says, because they can be graphic. Instead, restrict your exposure to written news updates.

In addition, Ziffra suggests anyone feeling more stress or anxiety than usual seek out their friends and other social contacts. Because most of the country is not in a COVID-19 lockdown, it is easier to reach out to friends and family now for support.

Prescient Advice

In March 2020, ahead of the divisive federal elections and the beginning of the pandemic, Ziffra wrote “5 Ways to Cope with the News” on the Northwestern Medicine website. His suggestions on ways to avoid triggers and manage stress still apply today, he says.

Okay so it’s bad domestic and world news time, you wanna be in the know but you don’t want to make your anxiety worse. Here’s some tips:

– Rather than “hearing every side” prioritize news sources with some kind of journalistic integrity.

— jupitarian decadence as praxis 🍋 (@praxisastrology) February 24, 2022

He warned at the time that “developing obsessive habits of consuming news and information can be dangerous to your mental health.” In addition, social media can intensify the effects of news overload.

Also recognize that obsessing over the news is very common. Ziffra wrote, “We’re in very uncertain times, and times of uncertainty tend to be very anxiety-provoking for people.”

Michael Ziffra, MD,
associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences,
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Feb. 24, 2022

source:  WebMD


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‘Magic Mushrooms’ Provide Fast, Long-lasting Depression Relief: Study

Treatment with psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in “magic mushrooms,” relieves major depression for up to a year, and perhaps longer, new research shows.

In a study of adults with a long-term history of depression, two doses of psilocybin, combined with supportive “talk” therapy, led to large, stable, and enduring antidepressant effects through a year of follow-up.

At 12 months, three-quarters of those in the study had an antidepressant response, and more than half were in remission from their depression, report researchers from the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

“Psilocybin not only produces significant and immediate effects, it also has a long duration, which suggests that it may be a uniquely useful new treatment for depression,” Roland Griffiths, PhD, a study investigator and founding director of the center, said in a statement.

“Compared to standard antidepressants, which must be taken for long stretches of time, psilocybin has the potential to enduringly relieve the symptoms of depression with one or two treatments,” he said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that psilocybin can alter a person’s perception and awareness of their surroundings and of their thoughts and feelings. Treatment with psilocybin has shown promise in research settings for treating a range of mental health disorders and addictions.

“The results we see are in a research setting and require quite a lot of preparation and structured support from trained clinicians and therapists, and people should not attempt to try it on their own,” cautioned Natalie Gukasyan, MD, who also worked on the study.

Psilocybin and related compounds are still not available for clinical use under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

magic-mushroom

The current study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, included 19 women and five men with moderate to severe depression. The vast majority had previously been treated with standard antidepressant medications, and more than half reported using antidepressants in their current depressive episodes.

At the time of psilocybin treatment, all study participants completed 6 to 8 hours of “preparatory” meetings with two people trained in psilocybin therapy. After that, they received two doses of psilocybin given about 2 weeks apart in a comfortable and controlled setting.

They returned for follow-up 1 day and 1 week after each session, and then at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after the second session.

Psilocybin treatment led to large decreases in depression, and depression remained less severe up to 12 months after treatment.

There were no serious side effects related to psilocybin in the long-term follow-up period.

“We have not yet collected formal data past 1 year in our sample, [but] some participants in our study have stayed in touch and report continued improvements in mood,” Gukasyan tells WebMD.

“A previous study of psilocybin-assisted therapy in patients with cancer-related depression and anxiety symptoms found that improvements in mood and well-being may persist up to 4.5 years following treatment,” Gukasyan says.

The researchers say further research is needed to explore the chance that psilocybin’s antidepressant effects may last much longer than 12 months.

By Megan Brooks       Feb. 18, 2022

Sources:
Journal of Psychopharmacology: “Efficacy and safety of psilocybin-assisted treatment for major depressive disorder: Prospective 12-month follow-up.”

Natalie Gukasyan, MD, psychiatrist; assistant professor, Johns Hopkins University.

source: WebMD


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The Link Between Sleep and Mental Illness

Mental health relies on quality rest, new research confirms.

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for well-being. Folks who report being well-rested exhibit better cognitive functioning (the ability to focus, learn new information, and retrieve knowledge from memory), self-control, lower anxiety, higher pain tolerance, and healthier blood pressure levels than folks who report disturbed sleep. Sleep disturbances also simultaneously contribute to mental illnesses (ranging from generalized anxiety disorder and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) while also being hallmarks of them.

Most studies examining sleep’s relationship with mental illness, however, ask participants to self-report how good or poor their nightly Z’s are. Wanting to gain a more definitive look at the link between sleep quality and mental health, a team of researchers led by Michael Wainberg, of Toronto, Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, tracked the sleep activity of 89,205 individuals by outfitting them with an accelerometer that measured their movements during the day and evening and correlated this data with participants’ histories of inpatient psychiatric admissions for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder as well as their genetic risks for various mental health issues. Data on psychiatric admissions and genetic risk were culled from the UK Biobank, a database containing hundreds of thousands of individuals’ genetic and behavioral information.

The Study

Wainberg et al.’s results, published in a recent edition of PLOS MEDICINE, found that accelerometer-derived sleep measures (which included bedtime and wake-up times, duration of sleep, and the number of times waking after falling asleep) significantly predicted participants’ psychiatric inpatient histories as well as their genetic risks of mental illness. More specifically, Wainberg’s team found that it wasn’t so much total sleep duration that predicted participants’ mental illness risk but rather the quality of the sleep they got during the time they were in bed: Participants whose accelerometers revealed that they woke more often after falling asleep and remained asleep for shorter bouts between bedtime and wake-up time were more likely to have met the criteria for a mental illness within their lifetime—and to be genetically predisposed to mental illness.

Why Do Sleep Disturbances and Mental Illness Go Hand in Hand?

There are several reasons why sleep disturbances may be linked with impoverished mental health. When we sleep, we generate new neural connections—a process called neurogenesis—particularly in a region of our brain associated with memory, mood, and emotion called the hippocampus. Inadequate sleep impairs neurogenesis, and impaired neurogenesis in the hippocampus has been found to contribute to depression as well as schizophrenia and drug addiction.

Insomnia and mental illness may also share a common underlying genetic predisposition: The same sets of genes that increase one’s risk of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder may also increase one’s risk of poor sleep. Mental illness and insomnia may also arise from a person’s trauma history. It is well known that trauma—especially childhood trauma—predicts a host of poor mental (and physical) health outcomes, including insomnia. Trauma dysregulates our arousal systems, leaving us more hyper-vigilant and thus less able to sleep peacefully and soundly (and more likely to have nightmares). Trauma also increases system-wide inflammation, which has been associated with various mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression.

sleepless

What This Means for Us

Not everyone who struggles with insomnia is destined to struggle with mental illness. But chronic sleep disturbances can and do give rise to impaired mental health, not to mention impaired interpersonal functioning and physical health. Even among individuals who do not meet the criteria for a mental illness, poor sleep quality is linked to increased psychological distress and relentlessly sleepless nights are found to nearly double one’s risk of depression and markedly raise one’s risk of future anxiety disorders. Getting adequate rest is critical to a healthy mind and body.

As the researchers note, “sleep problems are both symptoms of and modifiable risk factors for many psychiatric disorders.” Up to 20 percent of all adults in Western countries are estimated to struggle with insomnia. Strategies to improve sleep (think: psychopharmacological interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapies, noninvasive brain stimulation, and general sleep hygiene interventions—like reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, keeping lights dim, and avoiding screens an hour before bedtime) should be more routinely used to help treat and prevent mental illnesses. Additionally, mental illnesses may be more effectively detected at earlier stages by regular sleep quality screenings—say, at annual primary care physician assessments or even at each visit to an emergency room or urgent care center.

If you struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor about treatment options, or consider downloading the CBTi Coach app (developed by Stanford University researchers in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help treat PTSD symptoms, including insomnia) that uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioral techniques to improve sleep quality and duration. And don’t forget to check out this website’s excellent therapist directory to get support with any psychological issue you may be up against that could be contributing to sleepless nights.

About the Author

Katherine Schreiber, MFA, LMSW, is a writer and social worker based in New York City who specializes in working with adults with severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia.

Posted October 16, 2021 |  Reviewed by Lybi Ma

source: www.psychologytoday.com


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How To Manage Fear Around COVID While Still Staying Safe

There’s a delicate balance between vigilance and prioritizing other parts of our physical and mental health. Here’s what to know.

At this point in the pandemic, many people are struggling to make decisions about how to behave.

Since the start of the pandemic, the bulk of messaging about COVID has been extremely fear-based. We’ve read scary headline after scary headline as we have kept tabs on record-high case counts, death rates and hospitalization rates. We have consumed stories of people’s life-threatening battles with COVID and long COVID.

As a result, many of us have become exceedingly fearful about navigating life in the pandemic. And for a valid reason: This has been a scary 22 months. The coronavirus is new and ubiquitous, and, for a long time, we didn’t have ways to effectively mitigate the risk, said Dr. Lucy McBride, a practicing internal medicine physician in Washington, D.C. There absolutely has been a reason to be afraid — to a degree.

Fear has a very important role in our lives: It keeps us safe by teaching our brains to avoid dangers and threats. In a way, it also helps people understand the risks associated with COVID so they can make informed decisions about what is and isn’t safe.

But hitting people with too much fear can backfire. Excessive fear can reduce our tolerance for risk, it can make us hyperalert and hypervigilant, and it can cause us to make decisions that don’t optimally serve our mental and physical health. The key is finding the delicate equilibrium.

How fear influences our behaviors

Our brains are devoted to learning about the world, said Dr. Greg Siegle, a professor of psychiatry, psychology and translational sciences at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. If we are rewarded for a good thing, our brains continue to seek out the good thing. If we are punished for a bad thing, our brains become fearful of the bad thing so that we learn to avoid it.

“Fear is very good at creating avoidance,” Siegle said. “If you want somebody to avoid something, you make them afraid of it.”

Of course, for many people — especially certain immunocompromised individuals — it makes sense to be fearful of COVID. The risk isn’t zero, and it probably never will be. Vaccines have significantly improved outcomes in immunocompromised individuals who get COVID, but those with weakened immune systems are experiencing higher rates of breakthrough infections, and some of those can turn severe. Their vulnerability greatly depends on what local transmission is like, and whether the people around them are vaccinated ― two things that are largely out of their control.

But when we become absorbed by fear, our brains prioritize that fear and we start constantly scanning for threats with wide eyes. When this happens, we stop processing other important healthy behaviors that might seem more optional — things like digesting food, sleeping and connecting with loved ones.

“Particularly, at this moment, with a ubiquitous virus that is highly transmissible, fear isn’t shielding us from coronavirus,” McBride said. “It’s actually, for many people, limiting their ability to meet their broader human needs.”

When our fear systems are chronically over-activated, our physical and mental health can deteriorate. That’s why it’s important to walk the right line when it comes to fear, particularly fear-based thoughts that are within our control. Previous research has found that when people are overwhelmed with fear, they become anxious and engage in more destructive behaviors like smoking, drinking and unhealthy eating. Being overwhelmed with fear can even demotivate us to seek out the rewarding things in life, according to Siegle. Plus, when it comes to public health messaging, too much fear erodes trust in public heath.

It’s crucial to be intentional and nuanced when communicating the risks associated with COVID so that people don’t dismiss what’s going on or become overly afraid. (It’s worth noting that how much fear we can tolerate is also very individual and cultural. Some people, and cultures, can handle and comfortably live with more fear and arousal than others.)

“Fear is natural and important — but maybe it shouldn’t take us over and be the primary ruling thing in our lives,” Siegle said.

“Fear is very good at creating avoidance. If you want somebody to avoid something, you make them afraid of it.”  – DR. GREG SIEGLE

How to manage fear while still being responsible and safe

If you want to develop a more rational and less fear-based approach, Siegle said you’ll want to look at your risk assessment in a nuanced, evidence-based way. Be intentional about where you get your news and information: Avoid sensationalist headlines, look for the facts, and try not to solely read articles that reinforce your fear.

Siegle also recommended using the microCOVID risk calculator, which helps people estimate their personal risk for various activities in a specific, nuanced way. You punch in your location, vaccination status, and the activity you’re interested in doing ― including with whom and for how long. Then, you determine how much risk you’re willing to assume (some, none or a lot) and the calculator provides you with an idea of what living with that risk level looks like.

Similarly, McBride’s biggest piece of advice was to find a trusted doctor who can translate all of the information about COVID and apply it to your unique situation.

Ultimately, you want to find meaningful activities you can engage in, with modifications when necessary, that can bring you comfort, joy and solace, said Nathaniel Ivers, an associate professor in the department of counseling at Wake Forest University who specializes in terror management theory.

It’s important to stay connected to others, Ivers said, and COVID has created so much isolation that has left us alone with our thoughts.

“Try not to sit in the thoughts and the emotions by yourself ― really try to bounce them off of other people because, in so doing, you’ll receive feedback on how reasonable and rational those ideas are,” he said.

Mindfulness can also be extremely helpful in bringing us back to the present moment. When we are fearful, we’re oftentimes future-oriented and thinking about all the things that could happen.

“Mindfulness requires us to be present-focused, non-reactive and non-judgmental about the things that are happening around us and within us,” Ivers said. It helps us focus on what’s actually happening, rather than worrying about what could.

Finally, if your fear has led to debilitating depression and anxiety, ask for help and find a good therapist or psychiatrist. Living with fear — especially in the time of COVID — is natural and normal, but there are helpful therapies and medications available if fear has become overwhelming and is negatively interfering with the quality of your life.

“Fear is human, and fear is important,” Siegle said. “We can respect it and we live with it, but we don’t have to be ruled by it only.”

By Julia Ries        01/29/2022

pandemic

 

Coronavirus Anxiety:

Coping with Stress, Fear, and Worry

Fears about COVID-19 can take an emotional toll, especially if you’re already living with an anxiety disorder. But you’re not powerless. These tips can help you get through this stressful time.
Understanding your anxiety
It’s a frightening time. We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with many places at least partially shut down, others struggling to reopen safely. Some of us are in areas where the coronavirus infection rates are getting worse. Others are bracing for what may come next. And all of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “When is this going to end?”
For many people, the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. We still don’t know exactly how we’ll be impacted, how long this will last, or how bad things might get. And that makes it all too easy to catastrophize and spiral out into overwhelming dread and panic. But there are many things you can do—even in the face of this unique crisis—to manage your anxiety and fears.
Stay informed—but don’t obsessively check the news
It’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, so you can follow advised safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s important to be discerning about what you read and watch.
  • Stick to trustworthy sources such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, and your local public health authorities.
  • Limit how often you check for updates. Constant monitoring of news and social media feeds can quickly turn compulsive and counterproductive—fueling anxiety rather than easing it. The limit is different for everyone, so pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust accordingly.
  • Step away from media if you start feeling overwhelmed. If anxiety is an ongoing issue, consider limiting your media consumption to a specific time frame and time of day (e.g. thirty minutes each evening at 6 pm).
  • Ask someone reliable to share important updates. If you’d feel better avoiding media entirely, ask someone you trust to pass along any major updates you need to know about.
  • Be careful what you share. Do your best to verify information before passing it on. Snopes’ Coronavirus Collection is one place to start. We all need to do our part to avoid spreading rumors and creating unnecessary panic.
Focus on the things you can control
We’re in a time of massive upheaval. There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities. That’s a tough thing to accept, and so many of us respond by endlessly searching the Internet for answers and thinking over all the different scenarios that might happen. But as long as we’re focusing on questions with unknowable answers and circumstances outside of our personal control, this strategy will get us nowhere—aside from feeling drained, anxious, and overwhelmed.
When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your city or town, but you can take steps to reduce your own personal risk (and the risk you’ll unknowingly spread it to others), such as:
  • washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • avoiding touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
  • avoiding crowds and gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
  • keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when out.
  • getting plenty of sleep, which helps support your immune system.
  • following all recommendations from health authorities.
Plan for what you can
It’s natural to be concerned about what may happen if your workplace closes, your children have to stay home from school, you or someone you love gets sick, or you have to self-quarantine. While these possibilities can be scary to think about, being proactive can help relieve at least some of the anxiety.
  • Write down specific worries you have about how coronavirus may disrupt your life. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break.
  • Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on “perfect” options. Include whatever comes to mind that could help you get by.
  • Focus on concrete things you can problem solve or change, rather than circumstances beyond your control.
  • After you’ve evaluated your options, draw up a plan of action. When you’re done, set it aside and resist the urge to go back to it until you need it or your circumstances significantly change.
How to stop “what-ifs” from spiraling
Relinquishing our desire for certainty and control is easier said than done. If you feel yourself start to spin out into negativity or panic, grounding yourself in the present moment can stop the negative spiral and allow your rational brain to come back online.
 
The technique is simple yet effective: Bring your attention to your breath and your body. Focus all of your attention on the here and now: noticing the sights, sounds, and smells around you and what you’re feeling in your body. Continue to breath slowly in and out—gently bringing your mind back to your body and breath every time it drifts—until you feel more calm.
 
For audio meditations that can help you relieve anxiety and regain inner calm, click here.
Stay connected—even when physically isolated
Evidence shows that many people with coronavirus—particularly young, seemingly healthy people—don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus. That’s why the biggest thing that most people can do right now to make a positive difference is to practice social distancing.
But social distancing comes with its own risks. Humans are social animals. We’re hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health. That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it, even as we cut back on in-person socializing.
  • Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. If you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, think about scheduling regular phone, chat, or Zoom dates to counteract that tendency.
  • While in-person visits are limited, substitute video chatting if you’re able. Face-to-face contact is like a “vitamin” for your mental health, reducing your risk of depression and helping ease stress and anxiety.
  • Social media can be a powerful tool—not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances—but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us we’re not alone.
  • That said, be mindful of how social media is making you feel. Don’t hesitate to mute keywords or people who are exacerbating your anxiety. And log off if it’s making you feel worse.
  • Don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company—to laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in our lives.
Emotions are contagious, so be wise about who you turn to for support
Most of us need reassurance, advice, or a sympathetic ear during this difficult time. But be careful who you choose as a sounding board. The coronavirus is not the only thing that’s contagious. So are emotions! Avoid talking about the virus with people who tend to be negative or who reinforce and ramp up your fears. Turn to the people in your life who are thoughtful, level-headed, and good listeners.
Take care of your body and spirit
This is an extraordinarily trying time, and all the tried-and-true stress management strategies apply, such as eating healthy meals, getting plenty of sleep, and meditating. Beyond that, here are some tips for practicing self-care in the face of the unique disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
  • Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles.
  • Maintain a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries.
  • Get out in nature, if possible. Sunshine and fresh air will do you good. Even a walk around your neighborhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey restrictions in your area.
  • Find ways to exercise. Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While gym and group classes may be out, you can still cycle, hike, or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own bodyweight.
  • Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now.
  • Take up a relaxation practice. When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can bring you back into a state of equilibrium. Regular practice delivers the greatest benefits, so see if you can set aside even a little time every day.
Help others (it will make you feel better)
At times like this, it’s easy to get caught up in your own fears and concerns. But amid all the stories of people fighting over wearing face masks or lining up outside gun stores to arm themselves, it’s important to take a breath and remember that we’re all in this together. As a quote circulating in Italy reminds us: “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”
It’s no coincidence that those who focus on others in need and support their communities, especially during times of crises, tend to be happier and healthier than those who act selfishly. Helping others not only makes a difference to your community—and even to the wider world at this time—it can also support your own mental health and well-being. Much of the anguish accompanying this pandemic stems from feeling powerless. Doing kind and helpful acts for others can help you regain a sense of control over your life—as well as adding meaning and purpose.

Even when you’re self-isolating or maintaining social distance,

there’s still plenty you can do to help others.

Follow guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus.
Even if you’re not in a high-risk group, staying at home, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding contact with others can help save the lives of the most vulnerable in your community and prevent overburdening the healthcare system.

Reach out to others in need. If you know people in your community who are isolated
—particularly the elderly or disabled—you can still offer support. Perhaps an older neighbor needs help with groceries or fulfilling a prescription? You can always leave packages on their doorstep to avoid direct contact. Or maybe they just need to hear a friendly, reassuring voice over the phone. Many local social media groups can help put you in touch with vulnerable people in your area

Donate to food banks.
Hoarding has reduced supplies to food banks in many areas, while unemployment and economic difficulties have greatly increased demand. You can help older adults, low-income families, and others in need by donating food or cash.

Be a calming influence.
If friends or loved ones are panicking, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or giving credence to false rumors, refer them to reputable news sources. Being a positive, uplifting influence in these anxious times can help you feel better about your own situation too.

Be kind to others.
An infectious disease is not connected to any racial or ethnic group, so speak up if you hear negative stereotypes that only promote prejudice. With the right outlook and intentions, we can all ensure that kindness and charity spread throughout our communities even faster than this virus.

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Lawrence Robinson                          October 2021
 
References
Pan, K.-Y., Kok, A. A. L., Eikelenboom, M., Horsfall, M., Jörg, F., Luteijn, R. A., Rhebergen, D., Oppen, P. van, Giltay, E. J., & Penninx, B. W. J. H. (2021). The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without depressive, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders: A longitudinal study of three Dutch case-control cohorts. The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(2), 121–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30491-0
 
Mertens, G., Gerritsen, L., Duijndam, S., Salemink, E., & Engelhard, I. M. (2020). Fear of the coronavirus (COVID-19): Predictors in an online study conducted in March 2020. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, 102258. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102258
 
Millroth, P., & Frey, R. (2021). Fear and anxiety in the face of COVID-19: Negative dispositions towards risk and uncertainty as vulnerability factors. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 83, 102454. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102454
 
Twenge, J. M., McAllister, C., & Joiner, T. E. (2021). Anxiety and depressive symptoms in U.S. Census Bureau assessments of adults: Trends from 2019 to fall 2020 across demographic groups. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 83, 102455. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2021.102455
 
Aylett, E., Small, N., & Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 559. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5
 
Kandola, A., Vancampfort, D., Herring, M., Rebar, A., Hallgren, M., Firth, J., & Stubbs, B. (2018). Moving to Beat Anxiety: Epidemiology and Therapeutic Issues with Physical Activity for Anxiety. Current Psychiatry Reports, 20(8), 63. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-018-0923-x


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The Happy Brain Chemicals that Makes You Feel Good

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Trauma Is Probably The Reason You’re So Tired Right Now

Feeling more drained than usual lately? It’s not just you. Here’s what’s going on and what to do about it.

Exhaustion can occur after a period of intense stress or trauma.

You might expect, after a year of living with restrictions and extreme uncertainty, that at this point in the coronavirus pandemic ― with vaccines available in the U.S. and cities and businesses reopening ― people would be full of energy and enthusiasm, ready to get out and do things.

But instead, many people are finding themselves particularly exhausted and fatigued. Simple activities and socializations are followed by a real need to rest and recoup. Reinstatements of mask mandates following an uptick in COVID-19 cases are causing a resurgence of anxiety.

Trauma specialists aren’t surprised that people are feeling the weight right now. It isn’t until after the trauma starts to subside that people even begin to experience and become aware of the physiological aftershock.

A year-plus of chronic stress and trauma can take a massive toll on our health ― it damages the immune system, disrupts our circadian rhythms and makes us seriously fatigued. Our bodies have been through a lot. It’s no wonder we’re so tired.

How trauma causes fatigue

We’ve all experienced some kind of trauma as a result of the pandemic. Many people experienced direct trauma — they got sick themselves, or a loved one was diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19. We constantly faced the threat of becoming seriously ill, and for those most at risk, dying.

We have also been repeatedly exposed to death and illness via the media, and it’s known that exposure to distressing news is associated with traumatic stress and other mental health symptoms. And due to pandemic-related restrictions, people haven’t had access to the support systems and coping skills they would normally turn to, said Sarah Lowe, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health.

When our stress systems are chronically activated — as they have been throughout the pandemic — our bodies start to experience some wear and tear. Traumatic experiences run down the immune system, affect our circadian rhythms and impair our digestive health, Lowe said. When we’re actively going through a traumatic experience, our bodies produce a surplus of energy to combat mental and physical stressors. The body goes into survivor mode, and without time to recover, this can deplete our energy reserves.

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Often, it isn’t until after the traumatic event passes, and our bodies transition out of survival mode, that the physiological effects hit us and start to wreak havoc. Through her research on disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Tonya Hansel, an associate professor with the Tulane University School of Social Work who specializes in disaster mental health and trauma, has found that people generally don’t have the time or space to address their mental health needs during disasters, because they are too busy figuring out how to get through it.

“It isn’t until the stressor starts to be removed that we can really see what that toll has taken,” Hansel said.

On top of all this, while we are at a turning point in the pandemic, there is still some level of uncertainty. Unvaccinated people remain at risk from the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, and scary headlines may have vaccinated people fearful about how well they’re protected (which, according to data, is very well overall). And change of any sort, even good change, can be distressing.

“Even though these are positive changes and people are getting out into the world, it still is a change, in that I think it can be stress on the body,” Lowe said.

There are a few self-care methods that can help address trauma-induced fatigue.

How to deal with trauma-induced fatigue

The biggest step is to practice good sleep hygiene. Give your body the rest it needs. Lowe’s three tips for this: Avoid caffeine at night, don’t exercise before bed, and shut off your devices an hour before bedtime.

During the day, carve out some time for restoration. Meditate, do some yoga, go for a walk or spend time with some loved ones. Don’t feel like you need to pack your schedule with activities now that society has reopened.

“Try to take it slow and have compassion for oneself that these positive experiences might be taxing, and make space for rest and recovery,” Lowe said.

Set smaller goals and find new coping methods. The last thing you want to do is put more stress on your body because you aren’t getting back to normal as fast as you’d like, Hansel said.

“Start small and make small changes that bring joy in your life,” she advised.

There is no clear timeline for how long it will take each of us to recover. Some people may notice improvements relatively soon, but a lot of people will likely continue to struggle in some way, shape or form for the next several months.

If you’re feeling really exhausted, and that fatigue is affecting your job, relationships, or school or home life, consider seeking help from a counselor or mental health professional, Lowe said.

Above all, be patient with yourself. “It’s not fair if we hold our bodies accountable to just change overnight,” Hansel said. “Just as this was a slow process building up to that stress, fatigue is also going to be a slow process in bringing that stress down.”

By Julia Ries   07/20/2021 

source: HuffPost Life