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I am in my early 30’s and have been living with PMDD, PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, for about 20 years. I am married and have 4 incredible children. My husband is obviously a very devoted man, anyone who knows about, or lives with PMDD knows what I mean. PMDD is a more severe form of PMS. I just moved to South Carolina from Texas and am enjoying living close to the beach. I enjoy spending my time writing, watching my children play soccer, playing with my 2 dogs, Siberian Husky and Pekingese and working part-time at a Health Club. Not much research has been done, or is currently being done to learn about PMDD and why it affects certain women. I am very excited to be so involved helping other women learn about PMDD and how they can learn to live a healthier life even with this disorder.

I’ve been listening to some CDs on Meditation and Relaxation. I’ve realized that (1) I like having some guidance. A calm and steady voice helps me focus on my body and my breath. (2) If there is some kind of sound or music then I’m able to hold the practice longer. (3) I feel like a failure for both of these!

In a way, the right voice (and “right” is very personal so I recommend you try a bunch of different CDs) is like a teacher. In the privacy of my own home, and in the course of my own life’s rhythm I can benefit from having someone “teach” me how to meditate. I follow the guidance and I’m able to experience the benefits. I am more relaxed following at this point in my practice.

Music or some sound has the effect of a boundary. For me it encloses me in a safe and secure space inside my meditation. Perhaps due to my own life experiences I’m a bit leery of all that inner infinity! Music (or even birds’ singing in my yard) helps create a container for me to relax into.

And, once I’ve discovered these two preferences I find myself immediately moving into judgment and criticism. If I were a REAL “meditator” then I wouldn’t need a voice or a guide. I would thrive on silence. I’m not able to “do it right” or “be any good.”

I hear these inner admonitions and, today, I let them go. I know they have created a ground of anxiety and panic for me. It is in that place that my terror, my fear of the world and its workings, has grown and thrived. I no longer want to nourish that ground. So, I touch them and release them. I refuse to hold on to them, to make them “mine” any longer.

This ‘practice’ of letting go the inner critic is increasing my sense of peace and groundedness. I think this is the point of meditation.

So maybe I’m getting there anyway. Wherever ‘there’ is!

Time has an interesting piece on happiness, and how the topic is becoming a point of research among social scientists and psychologists. It’s a fascinating topic, and one that I personally believe to be undervalued in our uber-consumerist Western society. One of the happiness researchers has a few tips for us:

  • Be attuned to what gives you genuine satisfaction. Although many people assume that popular activities like watching TV are enjoyable, their own reports generally indicate that they feel more engaged, energetic, satisfied and happy when doing other things.
  • Study yourself. To better understand their own happiness, Csikszentmihalyi says, people should systematically record their activities and feelings every few hours for a week or two. In recording your observations, try to focus on how you actually feel, rather than what you think you ought to be feeling or what you expect to feel. Afterwards, note the high points, particularly, and the low ones. Then try to adjust how you spend time according to your findings.
  • Take control. Repairing unhappy conditions requires active effort. People often assume external conditions will change for the better or let chance determine their response. That’s a mistake. “Get control,” Csikszentmihalyi says. When things aren’t right, “you have to put in the same effort you would if your business were in trouble. Just as markets move, life changes too.”

As if you weren’t already feeling bad about yourself because of your poor diet, now you have another reason to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Take a look at this from Reuters:

The imbalance of fatty acids in the typical American diet could be associated with the sharp increase in heart disease and depression seen over the past century, a new study suggests.

Specifically, the more omega-6 fatty acids people had in their blood compared with omega-3 fatty acid levels, the more likely they were to suffer from symptoms of depression and have higher blood levels of inflammation-promoting compounds…

[…]

Hunter-gatherers consumed two or three times as much omega-6 as omega-3, Kiecolt-Glaser’s team notes in their study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, but today Westerners consume 15- to 17-times more omega-6 than omega-3.

The researchers investigated the relationship among fatty acid consumption, depression and inflammation in 43 older men and women. The 6 individuals diagnosed with major depression had nearly 18 times as much omega-6 as omega-3 in their blood, compared with about 13 times as much for subjects who didn’t meet the criteria for major depression.

Just in case that doesn’t make much sense to you, here’s the gist: eat more foods with omega-3 fatty acids, and less foods with omega-6 fatty acids. This doesn’t mean you should avoid omega-6, but that we should try to balance our omega-3s with our omega-6s.

Phew. Could our dietary requirements get any more complicated? Personally, I believe that if you’re interested in the optimal diet and don’t want to bother with juggling all of the different components, just eat as the Okinawans do.

Take a look at this article from SciAm:

The big news in this study is that at least some cortical inputs to the amygdala — those from the prelimbic cortex — are involved in the expression of conditioned fear. This involvement gives learned fear a previously unrecognized anatomical component. And it establishes that there is at least one difference between the networks underlying the expression of innate and learned fears.

These observations have far-reaching implications. First, they suggest that the expression of learned fear is flexible and subject to modulation by the prelimbic cortex, depending on the circumstances; our expression of learned fears is less rigid and less automatic than the expression of innate fears, which are beyond the reach of the cortex.

These observations also raise the possibility that hyperactivity in the prelimbic region might contribute to human anxiety disorders that are caused by over-expression of learned fear, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. If that proves true, reducing the activity of the prelimbic cortex might constitute a useful strategy for the treatment of these debilitating disorders, while leaving innate fear responses intact. If learned fear is necessary, so is our ability to control it. This study reveals some dynamics that might be crucial in exercising that control.

This is good news for us. Although it’s a bit technical, what’s really being said here is that learned fear is within the reach of our thinking brain. That means we’re able to change learned fear and, subsequently, completely recover from anxiety disorders. This is probably not news to most of us (myself included) who have subscribed to this belief for quite some time now, but many people still insist that anxiety disorders are innate fears that we are born with. This research shows (yet again) that this is patently false.

I’ve reached the top of the hill again! To those who’ve read my previous posts this will make some sense. For others… well, let me explain.

As most you you know anxiety can be a rollercoster ride. A couple of months ago I felt pretty good but then something happened that made me stumble a bit. I rolled down the hill. During these past two months I’ve been steadily climbing upwards again and – thankfully – I am back on top.

The past few weeks have been like a small cumulative miracle. Things have happened. I have been forced to deal with situations where I thought I would fail – even die – and I would have avoided quite willingly if I had been given a choice. These situations have been both big and small but they have all represented things that have scared my or things that I thought I could never deal with. I was wrong.

To clarify, these situations haven’t involved anything bad, sad or hurtful. That is, perhaps, the “funny” part. An example would be a situation where I had to speak in front of a big crowd of important people about something that was very important to me. This was something I thought I couldn’t handle. I was sure that the stress would simply kill me. I would fall down completly and utterly dead. Didn’t happen. I spoke. I lived. Yay!

And during this little trip I’ve had fun! Increadible fun. I haven’t enjoyed my daily life like this since… well, since I was a teenager, probably. I feel very much alive. I feel carefree and relaxed. Even though I’ve gone through more tension during the past couple of weeks than ever before. Things are moving fast – in a swirl – and I am pretty calm. Amazing.

I’ve even felt the claw of anxiety creep up on me and I was able to brush it away. “No heart attack today.” I said. “No blood clot or brain tumor, thank you very much.” And the anxiety just stopped dead cold. It crawled back into the darkness.

Will this last forever? Probably not. How long will it last? I don’t know. Will I roll down that hill again? Probably, yes. What will happen then? I will climb back up. Because being on top is breathtaking.

I hope everyone who has a daughter, is a daughter, is married to a daughter or who knows a daughter will take a few moments and just reflect on how deeply ingrained into our culture is the freedom to slur. I hope that rather than entering the fray on behalf of either Don Imus or the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team you will simply take a moment and respect the daughters — those you know, and those you don’t.

Whatever your politics are there is always space to respect a daughter — either our own or someone else’s.

The post’s title pretty much says it all. You can now reach We Worry: A Blog for the Anxious from weworry.com. Enjoy.

Many of us who deal with chronic stress and anxiety also deal with gastrointestinal distress. I myself am included in this group. Anyone who lives with IBS knows that it can take a terrible toll on your self esteem. During the worst of times, IBS dictates everything I do, from my work day to whether or not I can take my dog for a walk. When this is combined with an anxiety disorder, the cumulative pain and suffering can sometimes become unbearable.

Many people — myself included — have experienced little or no relief from medications. I have yet to find a medication that provides any lasting relief from the symptoms of IBS. This lead me to search for alternatives to pharmaceutical medications, where I found out about peppermint oil, fiber supplements, and probiotics.

Although there has been anecdotal evidence for its efficacy, only recently have clinical trials shown some evidence that peppermint oil really works. If you’re interested in trying it, keep in mind that you probably want to avoid “peppermint spirits.” The spirits will work and it’s much more potent than the oil, but it is diluted in about 80% grain alcohol, so consuming it can feel a bit like taking a shot of peppermint schnapps. “peppermint oil”, on the other hand, is smoother and contains less alcohol. Regardless, make sure that the oils/extracts you purchase are indicated for consumption and not for homeopathy or diffusion.

Additionally, when purchasing peppermint oil, you’ll have a choice of capsules or liquid. I myself prefer liquid, as it seems to work more quickly than capsules. Yet, it’s difficult to carry a bottle of oil with you everywhere you go, so if you’re away from home, the capsules are a great way to carry your relief with you.

Next we have fiber, the importance of which cannot be understated. It is possible that a diet low in fiber is at least partially responsible for IBS in some people. Much of our modern diet is full of fats and starches and a lot of unnecessary junk that does little but fill our stomachs and thicken our thighs. We’ve strayed from the diet that our ancestors ate for thousands of years, and one of the main constituents in that diet were fiber-rich whole grains. Increasing the amount of whole grains you eat is a simple, cheap, and tasty way to enrich your diet and improve your digestive system. Since the U.S. government revised the old food pyramid to include whole grains in 2005, many companies are now making whole grain versions of just about everything. You can find whole grain cereals, whole grain crackers, whole grain breads, and even whole grain frozen pizzas. This makes it even easier. There’s no excuse not to buy the whole grain brand of these products, and doing so can save your stomach a lot of pain!

But sometimes we just can’t eat enough fiber. In that case, try fiber supplements. There are a handful of different brands and when it comes to fiber, you get what you pay for. Believe it or not, any good gastroenterologist will tell you that all fiber is not created equal. You may have to try a few different brands before you find one that truly works. For me, that brand was Benefiber chewables. I prefer chewables because the caplets are huge horse-sized pills that I’d rather not swallow and the powders are too messy. Have you ever tried cleaning a drinking glass after filling it with fiber powder? It becomes a gooey mess likely to solidify into cement if not cleaned promptly. Besides, I’m lazy, and the chewables taste like orange sherbet. Your individual mileage may vary.

Finally, the last thing I’ve found to helpful is yogurt. The concept is simple: keep the digestive system flush with healthy bacteria to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. The use of “beneficial bacteria” is often referred to as probiotics, and a probiotic diet is likely to lead to better digestive health.

Here are some links for your perusal:

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month (NCCAM)
IBS information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
AboutIBS.org
IBS information from WebMD
MyPyramid.gov
Whole Grains Council

Take a look at this article from today’s Washington Post.

Up to 25 percent of people in whom psychiatrists would currently diagnose depression may only be reacting normally to stressful events such as a divorce or losing a job, according to a new analysis that reexamined how the standard diagnostic criteria are used.

[…]

The new study, however, found that extended periods of depression-like symptoms are common in people who have been through other life stresses such as a divorce or a natural disaster and that they do not necessarily constitute illness.

The study also suggested that drug treatment may often be inappropriate for people who are experiencing painful — but normal — responses to life’s stresses. Supportive therapy, on the other hand, may be useful — and may keep someone who has been through a divorce or has lost a job from going on to develop full-blown depression.

Read the rest.

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -- Mark Twain

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