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There is an excellent article by Dr. Oz in the November “Oprah” magazine about healthy aging. It outlines a 2 week program for healthy living – with an eye toward sustainable living for a high quality older person. I was skeptical when I started reading it (at the hair salon) but was amazed as I got into it.

Along with the standard exercise and proper eating bits, I was struck by how much of the article is focused on meditation, self-awareness and stress-relief. From a medical doctor! Each day there are suggestions on ways to first recognize and then relieve stress. He emphasizes how detrimental stress and anxiety are to the body.

So much of the article, and the plan, are centered around things it has taken me YEARS to learn!! They are simple and easy to follow. There are no large start up costs (although I disagree with his suggestion to buy a blood pressure cuff!) and no fads or fancy things to buy.

Give it a read — I found it very heartening to see such a sound, common-sense and helpful article in the mainstream media!

Years ago my mother gave me this funny little book.  It was called “Self Help For Your Nerves”, by Dr Claire Weekes.  The doctor’s picture was on the cover and even back then I thought she looked old and fuddy duddy.  I was appalled that my mother could consider that I had problem with my “nerves”, and to give me a book written by a dinosaur was even worse!  However, as these things often go, I have found this book (and the subsequent titles) to be invaluable.   Dr Weekes suggests three easy things you can do to ease anxiety.  

Floating
Float towards the symptoms you get … don’t fight them.  You may feel short of breath, have sweaty palms, a sore tummy etc.  Fighting these symptoms makes them worse, just try floating past them and accepting them for what they are, just a manifestation of an anxious you.

Facing
Face your thoughts and fears instead of trying to be rid of them by pushing or forcing them out. The continual fight and self talk is exhausting.  I say something to myself like, “I’m feeling really scared about….” That’s it really, I’m scared and anxious, end of story.  The problem with trying to reason yourself out of an anxious thought are the what if’s. “What if the doctor is wrong’ , or, “what if they have had an accident” and so on. Accept your condition … I tell myself that this is how I am feeling now and that I know it will pass. This can break the cycle of fear.

Letting Time Pass
Letting time pass seems hard, as naturally we want to be better now, but it takes time to heal a broken bone, so why not time for healing a tired and very busy brain?

I keep coming back to this book, I need to be reminded and reassured I suppose.  It is a bit like an old woolly blanket that I can nestle into and feel supported and comforted.

I have noticed a funny thing happening over the last few years.  Many of my friends have an anxiety problem.  Is is because of me?  Perhaps I am contagious?

My suspicion is that once you start talking about your own experiences of anxiety and/ or depression, is gives other people the opportunity to admit that they may have had similar experiences.  Somehow it no longer signifies failure, lack of self control or negativity. It isn’t something to feel ashamed of, and in fact you may find out that your good friend suffers from the same problem!

My friends are without fault a glorious bunch.  Many have had some tough times, and there is something wonderful about knowing people who have struggled with life, but are coming out the other side.  We laugh a lot, and for me that’s what makes all of this worthwhile. 

Kia Ora (hello). This is my first post, and being of a slightly pessimistic persuasion I can’t really believe that it’s going to work. But – I shall throw caution to the wind and give it a go.

As you can tell from the title I live in New Zealand, and even though it’s a country renowned for it’s green image, and relaxed way of life, believe me there are still plenty of opportunities to worry! I think my first experience with anxiety was when I was 8 and panicking that my mother would not come back from shopping. She did, but some germ of an idea had entered my head – bad things can happen.

I didn’t really experience anxiety again until I met my husband, he traveled a lot – and yes, I worried endlessly that he would have an accident, find someone else, or disappear off the face of the earth! Once the children came along I was in full flight. There were endless opportunities to really obsess then, and this combined with a period of intense stress and voila – full blown depression and anxiety in one very foul swoop. For me there is a huge connection between love/loss and control. To love is to let go and to trust – anxiety is not a good bedfellow!

I am now older and sometimes wiser. For me, dealing with anxiety is about letting go and believing that whatever happens, I will cope. This is my mantra, “I will cope”. I have discovered that anxiety for me is about the fear of not coping, and living well is about being able to love fully, while living with the fear of loss. Much of my anxiety revolves around health (I found the blog on self diagnosis to be particularly pertinent!), and no doubt you will hear more from me on this matter.

I’m looking forward to being part of We Worry, I hope that what I have to say will resonate with some of you. There is something rather nice about being part of a bigger group of people endeavoring to live to the best of their ability, even with life being so uncertain and surprising.

E noho ra

“Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults.” — Thomas Szasz

I found this wonderful quote a while back. It is an elegant way of saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I myself am guilty of this thinking, and I imagine that you are too. We always seem to think that happiness is something that exists just outside our grasp… if only we could reach it. I don’t think I need to tell you that this type of thinking is plain wrong and that searching for happiness is like searching for your own head.

I often joke about this with my wife. When we look back on our life together, we find ourselves saying, “That was a good time.” A “good time,” as defined by us, is generally one with relatively few problems: financial, marital, job-related, etc. One day, my wife said to me: “Why is it that all of the times in the past are good times but right now seems so tough?”

“That’s because we don’t remember the bad things,” I said.

And it’s true. Even those “good times” we were referring to had bad parts to them. Yet, as time passed, the bad memories faded and lost their potency, while the good ones remained in tact. By and large, humans connect emotions to our experiences. When we recall a memory, we often experience the emotions we’ve attached to it. As time passes, the negative emotions fade, and the good ones often stick around. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve found it to be true in myself and in others I’ve spoken to about it (not a scientific study, of course, but good enough for me). This isn’t to say that some negative emotions remain firmly planted in our psyche. PTSD is a good example of how such emotions can become tied to specific memories, sounds, sights, or smells. Regardless, as time passes, like water rushing over river rocks, it smooths the rough edges of our memories.

So is the grass really greener elsewhere? Or are we just too busy looking for greener grass that we’ve failed to look beneath our own feet?

Here’s an excerpt from this fascinating article from SciAm:

A research team studying brain signals in mice accidentally stumbled upon what could be an important discovery that could lead to understanding and successfully treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The finding identifies a new potential target for treating the psychological syndrome, which affects some 2.2 million Americans and is characterized by symptoms including anxiety and excessive behavior such as repeated hand washing and pulling out one’s own hair.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center made the discovery after deleting a gene in mice while studying neuronal communication in the striatum, a structure in the midbrain that plays a role in information processing, decision making and movement. They had set up 24-hour video surveillance of the critters in their cages after the animals developed skin lesions on their heads and necks four to six months after their birth.

“These mice stay by themselves and are grooming themselves all the time,” says Guoping Feng, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Duke and co-author of a report on the findings published in Nature. He says the mice also show telltale signs of anxiety, hewing to the sides of their cages and staying out of both bright and open spaces.

“We were not specifically looking for OCD … the phenotype itself is by accident,” notes Feng. But, the serendipitous discovery shows “how synaptic dysfunction can lead to abnormal function.”

Obsessive thinking is characteristic of most anxiety disorders. If you ever find yourself stuck on a specific fear, then you’ve experienced obsessive thinking. Unfortunately, OCD is typically characterized in the media as purely obsessive behaviors while ignoring the obsessive thinking that causes these behaviors. This is why any research on OCD is beneficial to anyone experiencing chronic fear.

It really irritates me when I find myself affected by negative people. When others choose to focus on some slight they perceive or something they don’t understand and they take it personally — then they demand redress, changes and an overabundance of attention. I find this kind of irritation gets under my skin and bothers me a little … a little more… and then, if I”m not attentive it can really honk me off.

It’s my responsibility to keep a steady flow of peace in my life. To see the irritations and let them go. To recognize that some problems are truly none of my business and have nothing to do with me. It is my attaching something (my irritation perhaps?) to the problem that gets me involved. I don’t know exactly why I think I have to understand other people so deeply. Or why I think it is helpful for me to get involved in issues that bother others so much. Probably some “superman complex” of mine – I want to save them from their own pain. Sheesh!

For me to have serenity and calmness in my life others don’t have to change their behavior or even do things differently. I can see the reality of a problem for what it is. Negativity, immaturity, fear. And then I can choose to look at something else. If I try hard enough I can often come to a place where I feel compassion for someone who is caught up in this kind of vicious cycle of negativity and anger. My life is better for this practice.

And lately, I’ve had a lot of chances to practice this! Ha!

"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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