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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

fine

 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.

computer

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


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Why Socializing Is More Exhausting Now—and How You Can Get Your Mojo Back

The fatigue is real.

There seems to be a lot more napping involved in post-COVID socializing. At first, I thought it was just me needing to rest up before a cookout, or dozing off in the midst of a movie night with friends.

But I’m not alone in feeling fatigued from a socializing schedule I would have handled just fine pre-pandemic. For most people, getting back to the new normal is a lot more tiring than they expected. “In my own life and amongst my friends and colleagues, I have heard people report that they feel exhausted, or that they have to dig deep to socialize,” says Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D., author of How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.

You can chalk that up to the massive sea change we’ve all experienced over the past year. “I think it’s part of the rebooting of our society,” says Ken Yeager, Ph.D., clinical director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “I don’t think we have ever really experienced this before—and thinking through all these processes and what socializing looks like now, is creating stress.”

cheers

Why socializing is a lot more tiring post-COVID

It’s not your imagination—you need to work a lot harder to socialize now than you did in 2019. And there are several reasons for it

1

We’re rusty at it

After more than a year of Zoom calls and small backyard get-togethers, we’re out of practice at how to handle social events—and it takes more energy to deal with the novelty of it all. “We’ve fallen off our normal pace and intensity,” Hendriksen says. “When that momentum grinds to a halt, breaking that inertia requires extra energy and motivation.”

And while we’ve been still getting together with our nearest and dearest, we haven’t had to make small talk with strangers in a while. “You’re moving around more, seeing more people and that requires interaction,” Yeager says. “That’s an expenditure of energy that hasn’t really been happening for a year.”

2

There’s more anxiety about getting together

Everything about getting together has been stressful for more than a year—with social distancing, masking, and trying to figure out how to safely eat or drink around people outside our household.

That stress isn’t necessarily going to disappear overnight—especially as we still have concerns about variants and outbreaks. “Do I have to wear a mask; do I not wear a mask?” Yeager says. “We’ve never had to worry about these things before.”

3

More of us have mental health issues

The pandemic has unleashed a wave of anxiety and depression, and that has impacted every aspect of our lives.

According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of people reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression skyrocketed during the pandemic. “Nearly half of the American population reported anxiety, depression, or both,” Yeager says.

4

It’s hitting both introverts and extroverts

You might think that this fatigue would be more closely linked to introverts, who have always had to muster up the energy to head out when they’re perfectly happy to chill at home. But fatigue can come for the extroverts, too, as they try to make up for lost time. “Extroverts might wear themselves out going all out, and still experience fatigue,” Yeager says.

How to get back into the social groove

Fortunately, the socializing slump you might be feeling right now will eventually disappear, as we get more used to being around people. But there are a few strategies to get you over the hill—and back to your friends and family.

1

Give yourself more down time

You may have had a go-go-go mentality pre-pandemic, but now’s the time to (slowly) ramp up to that schedule. (So yes, set aside time for that pre-party power nap!)

“Build in some down time so you can rest and recuperate,” Yeager says. “Find time and space in your schedule to recharge batteries and relax, getting outside and getting some fresh air into your lungs.”

2

Set boundaries

To help reduce the stress of social interactions, set boundaries that’ll help you feel comfortable.

“Articulate what you’re willing to do and not willing to do,” Hendriksen says. “Our family is not all vaccinated yet, so we’re not doing indoor dining. If someone invites us to go to an indoor restaurant, we would suggest eating outdoors or ask, ‘Would you like to come over for takeout in the backyard?’ You can set boundaries and still be friendly and compassionate.”

You might even want to set time boundaries—like suggesting meeting up for coffee for an hour, rather than a more open-ended invite.

3

Start small and build on it

Your first post-quarantine outing probably shouldn’t be a big, indoor wedding or a crowded restaurant. Look for ways to start small (a small get-together in someone’s house), and work your way up to bigger or more complex get-togethers.

“Take it slow and simple,” Yeager says. “People may be experiencing anxiety going back into events. Instead of jumping into a week’s vacation with friends or a full-stadium sporting event, practice a little bit and ease yourself into it with smaller interactions.”

4

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

If you’re feeling anxious about getting together, you could be putting too much pressure on yourself to make a reunion even more memorable.

“You don’t have to be your best self to be yourself,” Hendriksen says. “Don’t try to overcompensate by telling extra-zany stories, being extra-entertaining, or otherwise trying to carry the conversation. Take pressure off yourself and turn the attention spotlight onto the people you’re with.”

If you’re hosting, you might find yourself being rusty at hospitality. (Both Hendriksen and I have had people at our houses for more than a half-hour before offering them a drink!)

“As long as you have good intentions and repair the situation upon noticing, it’s fine,” Hendriksen says. “Try a line like ‘I’ve gone feral, so if I forget, help yourself.'”

5

Don’t forget your healthy habits

If you aren’t eating or sleeping well, that’ll make mustering the energy to socialize even harder.

“Your sleep patterns may be disrupted if you’re going back into work,” Yeager says. And look for healthy snacks with plenty of protein to help you avoid a sugar crash that’ll sap your energy.

6

Fake it until you make it

After a year-plus at home, it’s going to take a lot of energy to put ourselves back out there—and we might sometimes have to just force ourselves to make it happen, even when we’re tired.

“Push yourself to do the things that you have enjoyed in the past, with people you know you like and want to spend time with,” Hendriksen says. “Experiencing anxiety about our social life doesn’t mean something is wrong or dangerous. More often than not, you’ll be glad you went.”

By Lisa Milbrand

source: www.realsimple.com


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8 Secrets of a Healthy Mind

We would – of course – like any encounter with mental illness to be as brief as possible

and, most importantly, to be isolated and singular. But the reality is that for many

of us, the illness will threaten to return for visits throughout our lives. It will be

a condition to which we will be permanently susceptible. So the challenge isn’t to learn

to survive only a one-off crisis; it’s to set in place a framework that can help us

to manage our fragility over the long-term. Some of the following moves, practical and

psychological, suggest themselves:

Acknowledgement

Being ready for a return of the illness will help us to calibrate our expectations and

render us appropriately patient and unfrightened in the face of relapses. We fell ill over

many years – our whole childhood might have been the incubating laboratory – and it will

therefore take us an age until we are impervious. We should expect to recover no more speedily

than someone who has damaged a limb and probably a good deal more arduously, given how complicated

a mind is next to a femur or a tendon.

Mental Management

We need to be rigorous with our patterns of thinking. We cannot afford to let our thoughts

wander into any old section of the mind. There are thoughts that we need to nurture – about

our worth, about our right to be, about the importance of keeping going, about self-forgiveness.

And there are thoughts we should be ruthless in chasing out – about how some people are

doing so much better than us, about how inadequate and pitiful we are, about what a disappointment

we have turned out to be. The latter aren’t even ‘thoughts,’ they have no content

to speak of, they cannot teach us anything new. They are really just instruments of torture

and symptoms of a difficult past.

A Support Network

A decent social life isn’t, for the mentally fragile, a luxury or piece of entertainment.

It is a resource to help us to stay alive. We need people to balance our minds when we

are slipping. We need friends who will be soothing with our fears and not accuse us

of self-indulgence or self-pity for the amount of time our illness has sequestered. It will

help immensely if they have struggles of their own and if we can therefore meet as equal

fellow ailing humans, as opposed to hierarchically separated doctors and patients.

We’ll need ruthlessness in expunging certain other people from our diaries, people who

harbour secret resentments against us, who are latently hostile to self-examination,

who are scared of their own minds and project their fears onto us. A few hours with such

types can throw a shadow over a whole day; their unsympathetic voices become lodged in

our minds and feed our own ample stores of self-doubt. We shouldn’t hesitate to socially

edit our lives in order to endure.

Vulnerability

The impulse, when things are darkening, is to hide ourselves away and reduce communication.

We are too ashamed to do anything else. We should fight the tendency and, precisely when

we cannot bear to admit what we are going through, we should dare to take someone into

our confidence. Silence is the primordial enemy. We have to fight a permanent feeling

that we are too despicable to be looked after. We have to take a gamble on an always implausible

idea: that we deserve kindness.

love

Love

Love is ultimately what will get us through, not romantic love but sympathy, toleranc

and patience. We’ll need to watch our tendencies to turn love down from an innate sense of

unworthiness. We wouldn’t have become ill if it were entirely easy for us to accept

the positive attention of others. We’ll have to thank those who are offering it and

make them feel appreciated in return – and most of all, accept that our illness was from

the outset rooted in a deficit of love and therefore that every encounter with the emotion

will strengthen our recovery and help to keep the darkness at bay.

Pills

We would – ideally – of course prefer not to keep adding foreign chemicals to our minds.

There are side effects and the eerie sense of not knowing exactly where our thoughts

end and alien neurochemistry begins. But the ongoing medicines set up guardrails around

the worst of our mental whirlpools. We may have to be protected on an ongoing basis from

forces inside us that would prefer we didn’t exist.

A Quiet Life

We should see the glory and the grandeur that is present in an apparently modest destiny.

We are good enough as we are. We don’t need huge sums of money or to be spoken of well

by strangers. We should take pride in our early nights and undramatic routines. These

aren’t signs of passivity or tedium. What looks like a normal life on the outside is

a singular achievement given what we are battling within.

Humour

There is no need for gravity. We can face down the illness by laughing heartily at its

evils. We are mad and cracked – but luckily so are many others with whom we can wryly

mock the absurdities of mental life. We shouldn’t, on top of everything else, accord our illness

too much portentous respect.

We should be proud of ourselves for making it this far. It may have looked – at times

– as if we never would. There might have been nights when we sincerely thought of taking

our own lives. Somehow we held on, we reached out for help, we dared to tell someone else

of our problems, we engaged our minds, we tried to piece together our histories and

to plot a more endurable future – and we started reading about what might be up with us.

We are still here, mentally ill no doubt at times, but more than ever committed to recovery,

appreciative of the light, grateful for love, hungry for insight and keen to help anyone

else whose plight we can recognise. We are not fully well, but we are on the mend and

that, for now, is very much good enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su7S3hsnxuQ

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10 Science-Backed Ways To Avoid Depression

Depression is an extremely common experience, which can be hard to escape from once an episode has begun.

Psychological research has found all sorts of ways that the chances of developing depression can be reduced.

From social connection, through building resilience to taking up a hobby, there are many science-backed methods for lowering depression risk.

1. Social connection

Social connection is the strongest protective factor against depression.

People who feel able to tell others about their problems and who visit more often with friends and family have a markedly lower risk of becoming depressed.

The data, derived from over 100,000 people, assessed modifiable factors that could affect depression risk including sleep, diet, physical activity and social interaction.

Dr Jordan Smoller, study co-author, explained the results:

“Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion.”

2. Build resilience

Recalling positive memories helps to build resilience against depression.

Reminiscing about happy events and having a store of these to draw on is one way of building up resilience.

Similarly, getting nostalgic has been found to help fight loneliness and may also protect mental health.

Thinking back to better times, even if they are tinged with some sadness, helps people cope with challenging times.

3. Regulate your mood naturally

Being able to naturally regulate mood is one of the best weapons against depression.

Mood regulation means choosing activities that increase mood, like exercise, when feeling low and doing dull activities like housework when spirits are higher.

Some of the best ways of improving mood are being in nature, taking part in sport, engaging with culture, chatting and playing.

Other mood enhancing activities include listening to music, eating, helping others and childcare.

4. Eat healthily

Eating more fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of depression.

Reducing fat intake and increasing levels of omega-3 are also linked to a lower risk of depression.

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables may account for their beneficial effect.

Vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables may also help to lower the markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein.

Similarly, adding more fibre to the diet decreases depression risk.

This is probably why many studies link vegetarian and vegan diets to a lower risk of depression.

5. Stop obsessing about failures

Excessive negative thinking about unfulfilled dreams is linked to depression and anxiety.

When people repeatedly compare a mental vision of their ideal self with the failure to reach it, this can produce psychological distress.

Aspirations can be damaging as well as motivating, depending on how the mind deals with them and what results life happens to serve up.

Thinking obsessively about a perceived failure is psychological damaging.

depression

6. Reduce sedentary activities

Cutting down on screen-time strongly reduces depression risk, whether or not people have previously experienced a depressive episode.

The results come from data covering almost 85,000 people.

The study found that another important lifestyle factor linked to less depression is adequate sleep — around 7 to 9 hours is optimal.

Again, adequate sleep improves mood even in people who have  not experienced depression.

7. Be in nature

Being in nature relaxes the mind, which in turn enhances the immune system.

This may explain why nature has a remarkably beneficial effect on a wide range of diseases including depression, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, obesity and many more.

Dr Ming Kuo, who carried out the research, explained how nature helps:

“When we feel completely safe, our body devotes resources to long-term investments that lead to good health outcomes — growing, reproducing, and building the immune system.

When we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.”

8. Take up a hobby

People who take up any hobbies reduce their risk of depression by almost one-third.

Pursuing hobbies increases the chance of a depressed person recovering by 272 percent.

Hobbies are usually considered informal leisure activities that are not done for money and do not involve physical activity.

Things like music, drawing, sewing and collecting would be good examples.

To be beneficial to mental health, hobbies do not necessarily need to be social.

However, some studies do find that social hobbies can be particularly beneficial to happiness.

9. Get fit

People high in aerobic and muscular fitness are at half the risk of depression.

Being fit also predicts a 60 percent lower chance of depression.

The study tracked over 150,000 middle-aged people in the UK.

Their aerobic fitness was tested on a stationary bike and muscle strength with a handgrip test.

After seven years, people who were fitter had better mental health.

Those with combined aerobic and muscular fitness had a 98 percent lower risk of depression and 60 percent lower risk of anxiety.

10. Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps to reduce depression, anxiety and stress for many people, new research finds.

However, its effects on depression and anxiety may be relatively small, with the highest quality studies finding little benefit.

The best advice is probably to try and see if it works for you, but do not be surprised if its effects on depression and anxiety are modest.

Here are some common mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day and 10 ways mindfulness benefits the mind.

Want more suggestions? Here are 8 more everyday tools for fighting depression.

May 21, 2021       source: Psyblog