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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

  1. Book Review: Hope and Help for Your Nerves

    December 14, 2016 by Diane

    hope-and-help-for-your-nerves

    I don’t know if this book is still in print, but it’s worth scoping around used bookstores to find a copy so you can underline helpful passages. And there’s much to underline here.

    First, Claire Weekes uses the old-fashioned term “nervous illness,” which sounds more tolerable to me than the word anxiety. She takes the shame out of anxiety by referring to the illness as “severe sensitization” of the nervous system. Nerves become sensitized after a surgery, a major illness, prolonged tension, dieting, and whatever stresses the body. The body reacts with the symptoms of anxiety: a churning stomach, sweaty hands, racing heart, etc. These reactions become a habit.

    Second, the author explains every symptom in her no-nonsense yet reassuring tone, taking the fear out of the experience.

    Third, she encourages the reader to face the fearful symptoms, and not add to them through what she calls “second fear”–those worrisome what if thoughts that keep the stomach churning, the palms sweating, the heart racing.

    She reminds us that overcoming a case of sensitization doesn’t happen quickly, but, like any habit, it can be changed. The sufferer can be cured.

    This book, as well as a steady practice of meditation, helped me kick the panic habit. If I overtax myself, or stop taking my “meditation medication” and start becoming sensitized again, I often reach for this book, and Dr. Weekes’ understanding, encouraging voice, to steady my nerves again.


  2. When Panic Attacks, Duck! Ten Tips for Surviving the Holidays

    December 11, 2016 by Diane

    With the holiday season upon us, I decided to roll out three blog posts this week to help ease any anxiety you might be feeling. This post, from December 2015, offers ten tips to tamp down the jitters.

    Santa Claus

    Holidays can be stressful whether you struggle with anxiety or not. But with a sensitive nervous system, all the hustle and bustle of the season can be the tipping point that sends you into full-blown panic. Here are my tips on how to survive the holidays, and what to do if panic does attack.

    1. Pace yourself

    Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. Don’t give all of your energy to buying and wrapping presents, standing in lines, driving from mall to mall, and attending every party you’re invited to attend. All of these activities will zap whatever energy you’ve got if you don’t allow yourself downtime. Here’s where the receiving comes in. Receive the gift of slacking off in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn. Receive the gift of letting other people do some of the shlepping around. Receive the gift of taking a nap, or a long hot bath, or drinking a glass of wine, your feet in slippers, a good book at hand. And forget about perfection. Kick that demon to the curb. Whatever gift you choose, whatever meal you plan, is good enough.

    2. Take care

    Are you eating well? Exercising? Getting enough sleep? Are you spending time in nature, or some other sacred space? You’ll need to make an extra effort to take care of yourself when the stress of holidays is upon you. Sweets are plentiful, but limit the sugar, as it feeds anxiety. Ditto for caffeine. Cold weather may keep you indoors, but you can still do some stretching, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, calisthenics, or just dance around the living room in your pjs to release tension. Maintain a sleep schedule, and include a pre-sleep ritual like turning off the tv, cell phone and computer a half hour before you slip under the covers. And try to keep the volume down on the radio. Noise batters the nerves, too.

    3. Slow down

    Tis’ the season to feel rushed. What’s a body to do? Sloooooooow doooooooown. Make all of your movements slower. Walk, talk, whatever it is you’re doing, at a more leisurely pace. This will help to calm your heart, unclench your muscles, and lower your blood pressure.

    4. Be mindful

    Instead of thinking about all of the tasks ahead of you, bring your attention to the present moment. Focus on what you’re doing, like a camera zooming in for a close-up. Time will seem to expand, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed.

    5. Ask for help

    Don’t try to cook the whole meal, hang all the decorations, do all the dishes, or anything else involved in setting the scene, all by yourself. If others offer, accept their help. If they don’t, then prod those lazy duffs off the couch and march them into the kitchen. Many hands make for light work. And it’s a lot more fun.

    6. If panic attacks, duck

    Not under the table into the fetal position. Duck out—to the bathroom, for some deep breathing. Step outside for some fresh air and a larger perspective. Take a walk, play with the kids. Or just start in on those dishes in the kitchen.

    7. Express what you’re feeling

    It’s probably not a good idea, as you’re serving the ham, to announce to the room: “I’m having a panic attack.” But you might want to seek out someone you trust and tell them what’s going on. Why? It lets off some of the pressure that anxiety builds up. You don’t have to suffer alone.

    8. Talk to somebody who’s sympathetic

    Not the family member who’s liable to say: “Snap out of it!” Not the relative who’s uncomfortable with his own emotions, let alone yours. Instead, find someone who understands what you’re going through. It’s a good bet that over half the people gathered together (probably more) deal with anxiety. You only need to find one of those fellow sufferers to talk to. Pull that person aside and say: “I’m feeling anxious right now and can’t seem to shake it.”

    9. Distract yourself

    Count how many red and green objects are in the room. Juggle the Christmas tree ornaments. Take notes on how your family behaves after a few stiff drinks (you can use the information in your next novel!). Find someone who looks more frazzled than you, and do something to make them feel less so. Try not to make it all about you, or your anxiety, even though it feels that way.

    10. Be the observer

    Observe the action going on around you as if you are the calm, still center of the storm. Observe your panic go up and down in intensity. Observe yourself observing yourself, as if you are standing in the back of a movie theater, watching yourself in the third row, watching your life on the screen.

    Remember, this too will pass. The anxiety, the day. And when it does, pat yourself on the back for having survived.


  3. How to Worry Well

    October 23, 2016 by Diane

    Last weekend, it rained. Hard. And steady.

    When it rains hard and steady in California, we stay indoors. We don’t know what that stuff is pouring down from the skies, and if we can’t go out in shorts and flip flops, we just don’t.

    So indoors I stayed. In my box of a playhouse.

    I felt like a caged animal, which is sometimes how I feel in my head. Imagine my delight when I discovered a program on PBS called The Healing Mind. I tuned in, and although my reception was spotty (because I’ve still got squirrels in the doohickey), I got the gist of what Dr. Martin Rossman had to say about worry. The good, the bad, and the huh? what should I do about it?

    Worry is something we all do, sometimes to the point of driving us squirrelly. But according to Marty, we can learn to worry well.

    A worry well? Where we drop our worries and make wishes?

    No. But that’s an interesting idea.

    Worrying well looks something like this:

    Take a sheet of paper, and divide it into three columns. Label the columns:

    Good Worries

    Bad Worries

    I Don’t Know Worries

    Then list all those nuclear nuggets rattling around in your head, all those worry thoughts.

    Is the worry something you can do something about? Then it’s a good one. Is it something you can’t do anything about? It’s a bad one. The rest go in the “I Don’t Know” column.

    Now, for the good worries, decide on steps you can take to deal with them. Brainstorm. Write down your ideas. Make an action plan.

    For the bad worries, visualize a positive outcome. Visualize what you’d like to have happen. This doesn’t guarantee that it will happen, but at the very least, it will help you feel better.

    For the worries you don’t know how to handle, ask your wise self for advice. According to Marty, we use only a small portion of our brain, thinking. The rest of it, the vast uncharted territory, is where imagination and wisdom resides.

    You don’t think you’re wise? Think again.

    If a friend asked you for advice about a problem, you’d have an answer. Where does that wisdom come from?

    Your wise self.

    So lie down, or sit in your comfy cozy chair, close your eyes, breathe deeply from the abdomen, relax your muscles, and visualize your wise advisor. Ask your advisor what you can do about your specific concern. And listen for the answer.

    I was eager to jot down my worries, and found that most of them fell under the “I Don’t Know” column. Just seeing them written down in their various columns lifted a weight from my soul.

    Our minds are tricky buggers. But, as Marty says:

    You are not your mind. You have a mind, but you are not your mind.

    There’s a part of us that can observe our thoughts. Which means, we have the power to choose what we want to think, or not think. We have the power to change our thoughts, our brain chemistry, and its wiring.

    We have the power!

    Here’s another interesting tidbit:

    Worry is a thinking activity. Anxiety is our emotional response. Stress is our physical response.

    To tamp down our anxiety and stress levels, we need to use our heads. We need to nip it in the bud at the source of the problem: our minds.

    So breathe deeply, relax, and go to your imaginary safe place, somewhere the rain don’t pour. And start visualizing.

    Wanna learn more? Get the book, The Worry Solution.

    Here’s a guided imagery by Marty Rossman.