Blog

Understanding Anxiety

Do you often worry about stuff or think something bad is going to happen?  I know these feelings because I have also had extreme anxiety.  Everyone worries about things sometimes but anxiety takes worrying to a much higher level.    This post will discuss the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and what can help you to feel better.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects about 6.8 million American adults, including twice as many women as men.  It usually  develops gradually and can begin at any point in  life  but usually develops between childhood and middle age.  Other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD.   It  is commonly treated with medication and/or  cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Symptoms
Generalized anxiety disorder  is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or  more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with GAD usually:
Can’t control their excessive worrying
Have difficulty falling or staying asleep
Experience muscle tension
Expect the worst
Worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble
Are unable to relax
Are irritable
Are easily startled
Are easily fatigued
Have difficulty concentrating

Treatments
Generalized anxiety disorder usually responds well to medication and certain types of psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness.  Sometimes medication won’t be needed and anxiety will respond well to psychotherapy.

Antidepressants
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders. These must be taken for several weeks before symptoms start to fade, so it is important not to get discouraged and stop taking these medications. They need a chance to work.  This is especially helpful if you have depression and anxiety.   If you have any bothersome side effects, speak to your doctor and he or she will be able to determine if a change is needed in your medication. An adjustment in dosage or a switch to another medication  will usually correct side effects.

Anti-Anxiety Medications
Benzodiazepines relieve symptoms quickly  however they often increase drowsiness. Since many  people can develop a tolerance to them—and would have to continue increasing the dosage to get the same effect—benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short periods of time. People who have had problems with drug or alcohol abuse are not usually good candidates for these medications because they have a greater likelihood of becoming   dependent.  Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly instead of tapering off, and anxiety can return once the medication is stopped. Potential problems with benzodiazepines have led some physicians to shy away from using them.  Buspirone (Buspar),  is an  antianxiety medication used to treat GAD.  Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least two weeks to achieve an antianxiety effect.

Cognitive-Behavioral  Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is very useful in treating anxiety disorders. The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.
For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines cognitive behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies such as meditation and  deep breathing exercises  in order to help you to better understand and manage your  thoughts and emotions in order to achieve relief from feelings of anxiety.

For many people, the best approach to treatment is medication combined with therapy. As stated earlier, it is important to give any treatment a fair trial.   Remember  if one approach doesn’t work, there are others that may be helpful for you.

 

Advertisements

New Year, Same You

It’s a new year and everyone is making resolutions.  “I’m going to lose weight”, “I’m going to the gym”, “I’m going to eat better” etc.  We all make these resolutions and then a few months later we’re back where we started and forget about changes we wanted to make to “better” our lives.    While it’s good to make changes to help you lead a healthy and happy life, we shouldn’t try to make all changes all at once, also sometime when we decide to make a lot of changes, we set ourselves up for failure because we have so much on our plate.

Instead of making many resolutions think of making intentions.  You can say I intend to try to  go to the gym 3 days a week or I intend to eat healthier.  Doing this takes pressure off of you and if you fall off just remember to get back up.  Also remember even if you make changes  you’re still the same person and you’re just learning how to be the best possible version of yourself.  Happy New Year.

You can Pray and Go to Therapy

“Just pray about it.”  Those are words often told to  people struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health struggles.    While praying can be helpful, many times it’s necessary to talk to a professional.   Unfortunately many religious people do not attend therapy because of the stigma it has in many religions, you’re supposed to turn everything over to God and it will be better however sometimes God sends counselors and therapists to help you.

Churches don’t often name the reality of its members living with experiences of mental illness.  Unfortunately mental health problems are often erroneously intertwined with weakness or lack of willpower.   People are also  often viewed as “weak and crazy”.  Many Christians  are not encouraged to seek counseling, but instead are encouraged to pray harder and have more faith.  This is something which needs to be worked against especially in Black churches.   These views  lead to many Black people  who experience mental distress not getting the  help they need.   Going to therapy doesn’t mean you don’t trust God, it means you’re getting some help to live and feel better.  If you have a physical illness it’s not looked down on if you go to the doctor and it should be  the same with mental illness.    If you’re struggling with mental health difficulties remember while it’s fine to pray, there is nothing wrong with also going to therapy.

Staying Sober During the holidays

The holidays can be a difficult when you’re trying to stay sober. This is  especially true for people who have recently stopped drinking or using drugs.  . Here are a few ideas on how to help you with your sobriety during these times.

Meetings

If you attend meetings regularly,  keep attending them

The holidays can be a stressful time when trying to “fit in” seeing family, buying gifts and all of your regular activities. But if going to a meeting is helping you stay sober than it is important that you continue going.

A good idea is to have your meetings planned out. That way you can make your schedule around your meetings and be prepared. This makes it much easier to get to all the places you need to without getting stressed out.

Parties

If you plan on attending parties , try to bring a friend who will not be drinking.  If you make the decision to attend a holiday party, always remember that you can leave at any time.  Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings or what people will think.

Seeing the Family

Families are often a trigger for many struggling in sobriety. Make sure your family knows where you stand with your sobriety. If you find yourself struggling, call a sober friend or sponsor  and talk to them about it.  Don’t ever feel guilty if you feel you need to remove yourself from a family situation. This may be uncomfortable for you in the short term, but it is important to look at the big picture.

Talking to Someone

Talking to someone is always a good idea.  No matter what the circumstances, having someone to talk to can change your perspective.

Remove Expectations

The holidays bring with them a variety of expectations, whether they be on you or on someone else. Don’t let these presumptions deter you in any way. You can’t pretend to know anyone else’s situation and you can’t expect them to know yours. Keep it simple and enjoy the season.

 

Help Someone Else

 

When you make someone else’s life better, you will be filled with a feeling of joy and purpose.  You will be amazed at what this does for your own life.

Enjoy the Season

Try and enjoy what’s going on around you. People are festive this time of year and instead of resisting that feeling, embrace it.  Joy spreads.

Stay Away from Things that Recall Bad Memories

This is the time of year for reruns of old movies and Christmas songs that may jar certain feelings. You know what is going to stir up these emotions.  Try to stay away from  people, places and things which may cause you to use.  .

Down Time

The holidays provide a lot of down time. Don’t use these days to dwell, instead try and find a way to help someone else, go to a meeting or do some shopping for yourself or someone else. Find something productive to do with your time.

Use Your Resources

There are many tools at your disposal to stay sober, many of which I listed here, use them.  Help is there  but you just have to reach out.

Coping with being alone for the holidays

Many people find themselves alone and without family and friends to share the holidays. This can often lead to feeling sad and depressed but there are ways to alleviate these feelings and have a wonderful holiday.

No matter the reason that you’re alone for the holidays, you can make it a wonderful holiday season. First, make your time alone special. Then, when you’re through with personal time, pick some activities that will surround you with others.

A little time to yourself is often very rare. When you have some, it is something to cherish. Forget about what’s “supposed” to happen and that you’re suppossed to be surrounded by others. Remember that many people are doing what’s expected, and probably running themselves a little ragged. They may actually wish they had some time alone. Once you’ve put aside the weight of expectations, consider how you might treat yourself to some special time.

Get out, go somewhere. Find places that will stimulate and amuse you. Museums, festivals or streets decorated for the holidays might recharge you.
Take on a home project.
Rediscover an old creative talent.
Treat yourself to a personal spa. Spoil yourself with comfort. Read a novel. Take a candlelight bubble bath. Curl up on the couch with hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a movie.
Call or write to family and friends. Just because you’re not with them doesn’t mean you can’t make contact. But plan your calls, so you don’t go broke. And make sure the calls are a nice diversion for the day, not the centerpiece of it. You should enjoy the moments of contact, not dwell on the fact that you’re not with family and friends.

Make plans to be around other people when that alone-time limit comes. There are many activities to do and places to go where you can share the holiday spirit with others.

Return to the real holiday tradition by helping others. When you volunteer, you receive two big rewards. First, you’ll be surrounded by people — by volunteers and staff who share your spirit of giving and by those you are helping. Second, it’s good for the soul. Helping others in need is fulfilling.

Do something with friends. Many people don’t think of it. Most of us have been conditioned to think of holidays as time for family only. We’re not used to thinking of this as a time to gather with friends. If you’re on your own, a few friends might be, too. Get in touch with them, and make some plans. If you’re single, look for a singles organization.

Take advantage of what being alone during this time can bring you: a chance for some quality personal time, and a chance to get out, meet some new people and help those in need.

Depression and the Holiday Season

Feeling down during the holidays can be hard especially since everyone seems so happy.  Believe it or not many people who you seem happy during the holidays are also stressed and depressed.  So if the family gatherings, the endless parties, and the shopping get you down, you’re not alone. However people with depression need to be especially careful when coping with holiday stress. . Here are some tips to reduce stress and hopefully  find holiday joy.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Emotions

1. Have modest expectations. Don’t worry about  what the holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel.  Don’t worry about holiday spirit and take the holidays as they come.

2. Do something different. If the  prospect of the usual routine fills you with dread rather than  joy try not to  surrender to it. Try something different to get into the spirit.

3. Lean on your support system. During the holidays, take time to get together with your support team regularly or at least keep in touch by phone to keep yourself centered.

 

4. Don’t assume the worst.  Don’t start the holiday season anticipating disaster. If you try to take the holidays as they come and limit your expectations you may enjoy them more.5. Forget the unimportant stuff. Don’t run yourself ragged just to live up to holiday tradition. Give yourself a break.

6. Volunteer.  Consider taking time to help people who have less than you. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or working for a toy drive.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Family

7. Head off problems. Think about what people or situations trigger your holiday stress and figure out ways to avoid them.

8. Ask for help .  People may be more willing to help out than you expect; they just need some guidance from you on what to do.

9. Don’t worry about things beyond your control. You can’t control others but  you can control your own reaction to the situation.

 

10. Make new family traditions.  While it’s nice to keep old traditions, you can also add new traditions for the holidays.11. Find positive ways to remember loved ones. Holidays will remind you of the loved ones who aren’t around anymore, try to do something to celebrate their memory.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Parties

12. Don’t overbook.   Don’t say yes to every invitation.  Think about which parties you really want to attend.

13. Don’t stay longer than you want. Going to a party doesn’t obligate you to stay until the end.  Stay as long as you can and leave when you are ready.

14. Have a partner for the party. If the prospect of an office party is stressful, talk to a friend and arrange to arrive  and leave together.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Shopping

15. Forget about the perfect gift. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed,  don’t worry about finding the absolute best gift.   Remember: everybody likes a gift card.

16. Shop online. Save yourself the inconvenience, the crowds by doing most of your shopping online.

17. Stick to a budget. The cost of holiday shopping can grow very quickly,   try to stick to a budget.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Self-Care

18. Stay on schedule. As much as you possibly can, try to stick with your normal routine during the holidays.  Disrupting your schedule  can make your mood deteriorate.

19. Exercise. While you may not feel like you have the time to exercise during the holidays, the benefits are worth it.

20. Eat sensibly. When you’re facing a dozen holiday parties and family gatherings between now and New Year’s, it’s hard to stay committed to a sensible diet. But try. . On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard some days.   It’s not a big deal. Just get back on track the next day.

21. Try a sun lamp. As the daylight grows shorter, lots of people feel more depressed and sad.  A sun lamp may help to improve your mood.

22. Give yourself a break. “The holidays can make some people dwell on their imperfections, their mistakes, the things they’re not proud of,be  gentle with yourself. Remember it  is the season of kindness and forgiveness, so  save some of it for yourself.

Finding a Therapist

Sometimes finding the right therapist for you can be a long process and sometimes you will find the right person right away.  It’s important to find someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life.
Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person makes you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help.  It can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members. But sometimes, we need help that the people around us aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist  can help.

 

Myths about therapy

  • I don’t need a therapist. I’m smart enough to solve my own problems. We all have our blind spots. Intelligence has nothing to do with it. A good therapist doesn’t tell you what to do or how to live your life. He or she will give you an experienced outside perspective and help you gain insight into yourself so you can make better choices.
  • Therapy is for crazy people. Therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and want to learn tools and techniques to become more self-confident and emotionally balanced.
  • All therapists want to talk about is my parents. While exploring family relationships can sometimes clarify thoughts and behaviors later in life, that is not the sole focus of therapy. The primary focus is what you need to change unhealthy patterns and symptoms in your life. Therapy is not about blaming your parents or dwelling on the past.
  • Therapy is self-indulgent. It’s for whiners and complainers. Therapy is hard work. Complaining won’t get you very far. Improvement in therapy comes from taking a hard look at yourself and your life, and taking responsibility for your own actions. Your therapist will help you, but ultimately you’re the one who must do the work.

Finding the right therapist for you

. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery.

  • Experience matters. One of the main reasons for seeing a therapist, rather than simply talking to a friend, is experience. Look for a therapist who is experienced in treating the problems that you have.  Experienced therapists have seen the problems you’re facing again and again, which broadens their view and gives them more insight.
  • Check licensing. Credentials aren’t everything, but if you’re paying for a licensed professional, make sure the therapist holds a current license and is in good standing with the state regulatory board. Regulatory boards vary by state and by profession. Also check for complaints against the therapist.
  • Trust your gut. Even if your therapist looks great on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right—if you don’t trust the person or feel like they truly care—go with another choice. A good therapist will respect this choice and should never pressure you or make you feel guilty.

What’s most important in a therapist  is a sense of connection, safety, and support. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it seem like the therapist truly cares about you and your problems?
  • Do you feel as if the therapist understands you?
  • Does the therapist accept you for who you are?
  • Would you feel comfortable revealing personal information to this individual?
  • Do you feel as if you can be honest and open with this therapist? That you don’t have to hide or pretend you’re someone that you’re not?
  • Is the therapist a good listener? Does he or she listen without interrupting, criticizing, or judging? Pick up on your feelings and what you’re really saying? Make you feel heard?

Types of  therapists

 

The following types of mental health professionals have advanced training in therapy and are licensed.

Common types of mental health professionals
Psychologist Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and are licensed in clinical psychology.
Social worker Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) have a Master’s degree in social work (MSW) along with additional clinical training.
Marriage and family therapist Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) have a Master’s degree and clinical experience in marriage and family therapy.
Psychiatrist A psychiatrist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in mental health. Because they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Psychiatrist generally do not provide therapy but provide medication management and you will see a different therapist.

What to expect in therapy or counseling

Every therapist is different, but there are usually some similarities to how therapy is structured. Normally, sessions will last about an hour, and often be about once a week, although for more intensive therapy they maybe more often.

  • Expect a good fit between you and your therapist. Don’t settle for bad fit. You may need to see one or more therapists until you experience feeling understood and accepted.
  • Therapy is a partnership. Both you and your therapist contribute to the healing process. You’re not expected to do the work of recovery all by yourself, but your therapist can’t do it for you either. Therapy should feel like a collaboration.
  • Therapy will not always feel pleasant. Painful memories, frustrations or feelings might surface. This is a normal part of therapy and your therapist will guide you through this process. Be sure to communicate with your therapist about how you are feeling.
  • Therapy should be a safe place. While there will be times when you’ll feel challenged or when you’re facing unpleasant feelings, you should always feel safe. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or you’re dreading your therapy sessions, talk to your therapist.

Your first therapy sessions

The first session or two of therapy is a time for mutual connection, a time for the therapist to learn about you and your issues. The therapist may ask for a mental and physical health history.

It’s also a good idea to talk to the therapist about what you hope to achieve in therapy. Together, you can set goals and benchmarks that you can use to measure your progress along the way.

This is also an important time for you to be evaluating your connection with your therapist. Do you feel like your therapist cares about your situation, and is invested in your recovery? Do you feel comfortable asking questions and sharing sensitive information? Remember, your feelings as well as your thoughts are important, so if you are feeling uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to consider another therapist.

 

Making the most of therapy

To make the most of therapy, you need to put what you’re learning in your sessions into practice in your real life. 50 minutes in therapy each week isn’t going to fix you; it’s how you use what you’ve learned with the rest of your time. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your therapy:

  • Don’t expect the therapist to tell you what to do. You and your therapists are partners in your recovery. Your therapist can help guide you and make suggestions for treatment, but only you can make the changes you need to move forward.
  • Make a commitment to your treatment. Don’t skip sessions unless you absolutely have to. If your therapist gives you homework in between sessions, be sure to do it. If you find yourself skipping sessions or are reluctant to go, ask yourself why. Are you avoiding painful discussion? Did last session touch a nerve? Talk about your reluctance with your therapist.
  • Share what you are feeling. You will get the most out of therapy if you are open and honest with your therapist about your feelings. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed, or something is too painful to talk about, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist. Slowly, you can work together to get at the issues.

Remember your therapist is there to help you and it’s important to find the right person for you.