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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!

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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’m currently working through three new CDs on Meditation and Guided Relaxation.

THe first one is called “Guided Meditations for calmness, awareness and love” led by Bodhipaksa. There are three meditations on this CD: one on the Mindfulness of Breathing, one on the Development of Lovingkindness and a third on which is called Walking Meditation Practices.

Bodhipaksa’s voice is very soothing, a deep, clear voice with a hint of Scottish brogue. He speaks plainly and simply. He explains what he is doing, and he speaks directly to you as if he is in the room with you. He begins with eyes open and this is unusual, but I liked it – especially for beginners.

The second one is from “The Mental Medicine Collection” and is called “Quiet Thoughts.”

The third is called “The Ease of Being: Guided Meditations for Centering and Healing.”

As I work through these and practice them I’ll keep posting. I think the sound of a voice, and the use of images, appeals to individual tastes, but perhaps it will be helpful and encourage someone to give this tool a try.

Raw numbers don’t lie: more people are reporting problems with anxiety than ever before. I wrote a post a while back that casually explores this phenomenon and proposes a few simple explanations as to why this is the case. Regardless of its cause, with increasing numbers of anxiety sufferers comes a very strong financial niche for those who choose to exploit this suffering.

I do not (and will not) attempt to hide my disgust with such people; so I offer this as a disclaimer: I am adamantly opposed to any individual or organization that sells any program that claims to treat your anxiety for a fee that exceeds the cost of the production of the materials. In other words, if the individual/organization makes any sort of profit of such programs, I’m against it.

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I don’t watch a lot of primetime television because I typically find it to be mind-numingly stupid and boring. My wife, on the other hand, prefers to watch mindless television for the same reason I avoid it: because it’s mindless. I’m always picky about what I watch as I believe that consuming bad television makes for a bad attitude; or, at the very least, a dull mind.

So I’m always tickled when I find a television show that is both smart and funny. The last show that I really enjoyed was Northern Exposure. Although there have been a few gems since then, I think NBC’s Scrubs is, by far, the best show on television right now. Believe it or not, this comedy is absolutely packed with clever little nuggets of worldly life advice. I’d like to share one with you.

In the episode entitled “My Balancing Act,” J.D is trying to find a diagnosis for a patient, Mr. Yaeger, with odd symptoms. His mentor, Dr. Cox, is overseeing J.D.’s progress:

J.D.: So, judging from the ataxia dysarthia and the mental status change, I’ve concluded that Mr. Yeager is suffering from… Kuru.

Dr. Cox: Kuru?

J.D.: Kuru.

Dr. Cox: Kuru.

J.D.: Yes, Kuru.

Dr. Cox: Wow. I’d actually never thought of that.

J.D.: Hell yeah!

Dr. Cox: Were you aware that the only documented cases of Kuru were members of a cannibalistic tribe in eastern Papua New Guinea?

J.D.: I was not.

Mr. Yeager: Actually, Doc, I was in New Guinea just last week.

J.D.: Really?

Mr. Yeager: No.

Dr. Cox: Newbie, do you happen to know what a zebra is?

J.D.: That patient just mocked me!

Dr. Cox: It’s a diagnosis of a ridiculously obscure disease when it’s much more likely that the patient has a common illness presenting with uncommon symptoms. In other words, if you hear hoof-beats, you just go ahead and think horsies — not zebras. Mm’kay, Mr. Silly Bear?

The moral of the story is this: many of us deal with anxiety surrounding health issues, be it physical or mental health. Much of this anxiety is usually rooted around a few “strange” symptoms which seem particularly bothersome.

Regardless, even when you have strange or uncommon symptoms, it makes much more sense to “think horsies” rather than to presume “zebras.” In other words, your self-diagnosis of horrible diseases is most likely bullshit. It’s much more likely that your symptoms are indicative of a common illness or even of the anxiety itself, even if the symptoms themselves are uncommon.

If you hear hoof-beats, think horsies. And watch Scrubs. It’s probably the only show on television I can happily endorse as being worth your time.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, and Stress

Obsessive Anxiety and OCD

  • The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts by Lee Baer.
  • This book is the definitive authority on those who experience “bad,” “scary,” or “disturbing” thoughts as a result of obsessions. This is commonly seen in individuals diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) although anyone can experience these symptoms of anxiety regardless of diagnosis. This book is small but very powerful. This book is a beacon of hope for the millions of people who suffer from scary obsessions. Dr. Baer provides a vast amount of information and guidance on how to rid yourself of these obsessions once and for all.

  • Getting Control by Lee Baer.
  • This is another great book from Dr. Lee Baer. Although the title is written specifically for those with OCD, anyone who experiences chronic anxiety and obsessive worry will find valuable advice here.

  • Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty by Jonathan Grayson.
  • Whether the diagnosis is OCD or not, this book’s great strength lies in its advice for dealing with uncertainty. It is a valuable addition to the body of literature on anxiety.

  • Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior by Jeffrey M. Schwartz.
  • In Brain Lock, Jeffrey M. Schwartz presents a simple four-step method for overcoming OCD that is so effective, it’s now used in academic treatment centers throughout the world. Proven by brain-imaging tests to actually alter the brain’s chemistry, this method doesn’t rely on psychopharmaceuticals. Instead, patients use cognitive self-therapy and behavior modification to develop new patterns of response to their obsessions. In essence, they use the mind to fix the brain. Using the real-life stories of actual patients, Brain Lock explains this revolutionary method and provides readers with the inspiration and tools to free themselves from their psychic prisons and regain control of their lives.

Spiritual and Philosophical Approaches to Anxiety and Stress

Inspirational Fiction

"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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